Let me preface this review with a few words. This was my 10th cruise but the first aboard Carnival. I have cruised Royal Caribbean 8 times with a couple of odd cruises aboard the Regal Empress and Premiers' Majestic. I went on this as a part of a group but traveled alone in my own cabin. You should see my galleries I posted to get a good understanding of this review. They were posted today, October 20th 2004 and are named, "Dave the Wave's Sensation Cruise". I have to say that overall I prefer Royal Caribbean but did manage to have a great time.
Embarkation- I arrived at the Port of Tampa about 11 AM. I had a friend from work drop me off since it is only 20 minutes from my home in St. Petersburg. I waited in line for a few minutes and then in the waiting area about 15 minutes. I was onboard by noon and having my first beer.
Cabin- I opted for an inside cabin category 1A. This is the lowest category of cabin but I was on the Empress deck near the elevators and stairsand it was very convenient. I had a single bed on the floor and a bunk overhead that was folded against the wall. The cabin was a fair size and had a nice size bathroom. There was a little basket of sample size toiletries. I did not find my cabin steward until I tracked him down the second day. I need ice for my cooler (see photo gallery) and had to get someone else to get it for me.
The Décor- I found this ship to be a bit tacky. The elevators and almost everything else were purple. The chrome and neon was a bit overdone. I prefer more subtle tones and brass and wood to this. While some may find it attractive, I found it a bit garish and annoying.
The dining room- Our group of about 30 was seated together at three long tables by the windows. I would not have liked to be in one of the booths. The service was good and the food edible. I had the filet the first night, rare and it was excellent. For the formal night I had the lobster and also a prime rib. Both were good. I ate at the Sea View Grille for breakfast and lunch most days. I am not there to get my moneys worth out of the food. I eat to live not live to eat. It was quite obvious though that some were there to eat their cruise fare. I could not believe the lineup for the midnight buffet.
The pool area- this was my biggest disappointment as the pool area is where I am in all my glory. Compared to the large expanse of open deck I am used to, I found this pool to be small, ugly colors and there was no splash area to lay around in. The sides were high, covered in ugly tiles and this nasty yellow and black striped area. There were benches around the pool that reminded me of the locker room at the YMCA. The pool bar was tucked in a corner and the restrooms were out in the open so that when someone opened the door others could see someone at the urinal. The slide was fun for the kids but took up a lot of space and made it feel more confining. There were no potted palms or planters and the chairs by the Sea View were of the variety you buy at Walmart for $5. I have never boarded a ship and found the pool empty until the next day.
The bars and lounges- I had the most fun in the piano bar. Although the hands were kind of creepy, the entertainer was very good and funny and the crowd that tended to hang out in there was quite fun. The late night comedian was very funny.
Cozumel- I was there in May with my kids on the Enchantment of the Seas. This time I took the Fury Catamaran trip and had a blast. They took us to an area not far off the beach in about 20-25' feet of water. We snorkeled and then got back on the boat for unlimited beer and Margaritas. Everyone had a great time. (see photo gallery)
Fellow cruisers- There was a party crowd on this ship for sure. I met a lot of great people and had a lot of fun. If you did not already have a bunch of tattoos like most people ( I am still a tattoo virgin) you could get one by the pool. There seemed to be a lot of groups. There were many from Florida and then some groups from Chicago, NY and Ohio among others.
Overall, I had a good time but went away thinking it was somewhat lacking. I have booked my next cruise for the spring when the kids are out of school and will find myself aboard Royal Caribbean again next time.
Embarkation was very easy. Skippers Club prevented us from standing in the long lines. The ship cannot be boarded any earlier than 1200 noon. We boarded the ship and found our stateroom quickly. U-80, we had been upgraded to the penthouse suite. Our cabin was very spacious with a refrigator, sofa , and large bathroom. We went up to the Lido deck for a great lunch. The pool had been drained and was not to be filled until 8am the next morning. We enjoyed the balcony while the ship sailed through Tampa Bay. This part of Tampa Bay is very dirty and oily. Yuck! We sailed (barely) under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and we were off to the caribbean. Our first day at sea had many activities to do with formal night in the evening. We ate in the dining room all but one night. The food was all very good. Although, nothing really stood out as being fabulous.
The shows were okay. We have seen better. Hey,Mombo was good but repetative. There were 2 comedians. Both were good. Costa Maya was our first port instead of Grand Cayman. Costa Mayahad a large shopping area with a swimming pool, and swim up bar. All very clean. We took the Jungle Beach Break to Uvero Beach. After a 25 min motor coach ride, we arrived at the beach. It was very clean, with shops, water activities, restaurant, open bar (free), plenty of lounge chairs, lots of palm trees, powder sand beach, large swimming area, and running water restrooms. We found a palm tree, lounge chairs, and got some drinks made from rum that were red/white/blue. Very good. Cozumel was our next port. We went to Chankaanub National Park to swim with the dolphins. What a great experience. The park is beautiful and only 5min from the port. It has a small beach. I highly recommend it.
Our cruise director was Michael Mullane. He is hyperactive and at times annoying. The ship is very pretty with shades of purple and blue. It does not show it's 11 years of age. The service we received was great. We had noisy neighbors that tried to lean over their balcony to see into our cabin. They are lucky they didn't go overboard.!!! For three nights they yelled, slammed doors, hit the walls, and kept us awake. Finally, after a total of 15 calls to the pursers desk, Carnival talked with them. The next 2 nights were quiet. We were not the only ones that complained. We received a free bottle of wine at dinner one night for our trouble. Nice. At debarkation we did self assist, which is carrying off your own luggage. It was very easy. No problems. All in all it was a great cruise. The food and shows could have been a little better. I think all that cruise the Sensation will have a great time!!!!!!!
Hey everybody, I just got off the Sensation this morning, and, overall, I had a pretty good time. We went on a 5 night to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Embarkation was normal, took about 40 min. to board the ship. The staff there was pretty rude, but I'll get over it. We had a friend drop us off, but I heard from other guest that parking was 10.00 a day. I also heard that the parking was very difficult to find.
Our first impression was that it was a purple ship(I was right.) The atrium has purple outlining, and blue elevators(Which are beautiful at night.) Instead of a center piece, like in some other Fantasy-class ships, it has a bar. This bar is usually busy. The Information Desk ALWAYS had a long line, and Shore Tours and the Photo Gallery were rarely open(They take way too many pictures.)
We went to our cabin(It had white comforters and sheets, and EXTREMELY comfortable beds.) The bathroom had a huge step, which I tripped over several times.
Then we went to explore the ship. The casino is average-sized, the Fantasia Lounge is nice, with green lightsas overheads, and the stage is rather large. Like I said earlier, the ship is very purple, and purple lights were usually shining on the stage curtains.
After we found the Fantasia Lounge, we ventured on through Promenade, and saw two small arcades, a large disco, a meeting lounge with rather detailed naked statues, and the Plaza Lounge(Where comedy shows and kareoke was heald daily.) Upstairs is the pool, which is unfortunately salt water. The jacuzzis do allow kids in them, therefore it was packed with rude little kids splashing around and yelling at passerbys. (I love kids, because I am one myself, but there is a line you mustn't cross.) There is a Tops Optional deck by the funnel, but there's never anyone there. The Seaview Buffet doesnt serve the best food, but is always up for ice cream and pizza. Also, if you have kids, it's a great place to go for a casual lunch or dinner.
The dining room food, I'm sorry to say, was horrible. They do serve excellent kids menu items, but other than that, I recommend just to go on formal night. The service was excellent, and they had a surprise show for us!
Also, the Sensation has other bars, lounges, and discos throughout the ship.
The first day at sea, wasn't really packed with activities. We did enjoy Bingo, and some other neat games played in the Fantasia Lounge, but, mostly, me and my dad were bored for the day.
We found out that we had horrible social host. Richie always said "Yo yo, wassup, it's yo Richie" which was extremely annoying. Shawna was rude, and couldn't take a joke. I liked Anna, who was the back-up social host. The backup for Richie(forgot his name), was really funny and nice. There are always two social hosts, and two back-up social hosts on each cruise. They do rotate each cruise, so hopefully you'll get the good batch. The cruise director is funny, and made everyone laugh. His name was Jorge, bot he told us to call him "Whorehay"(That's his name in Spanish.) He uses the same old Carnival jokes, so, does not use much interesting material, but he'll break a laugh every once in a while. Later in the day, there was plenty to do, including a Las-Vegas style show "Party Time". The production singers are great. The female has one heck of a voice(Analyn), and the male(Roberto) has a good voice, and gets the crowd going. Analyn is a nice woman, and would be happy to talk to you after the show if you ask a crew member to speak with her. I did this, and she was very sweet. This is my 3rd cruise with her. She is much better than the other two female singers I have heard. Anyways, the music, dances, and show girls were top of the line, and I'm sure you will enjoy this performance.
In Grand Cayman, I recommend the Stingray Sandbar, Hell, and Turtle Farm excursion. Everybody I talked to had a blast on it, and I did the Reef and Ray, and had a fair time. The comedy show for the night was ok. The magician was funny, but sucked.
Cozumel is a party port, so, afterwards, mostly drunks are on board the ship. Anyways, I highly recommend Snuba Diving. It is great for beginners, and is easy to learn. It is the same as Scuba Diving, but the tank isn't on your back, it's on a raft floating on the top of the water. You go down about 25 ft; and see numbers of unique wildlife. We saw a Morray Eel, an Electric Eel, and rare corral. WATCH OUT FOR FIRE CORRAL. OW! Anyways, at a cheaper price, there is Unlimited Snorkeling, and the only bad thing is is that you have to wear a life jacket. :-(. On board, there wasnt really anything to do, except watch the Talent Show, and make fun of the bad people.
The last day at sea was action packed, and I wasn't bored at any time of the day. The casinos were open longer than usual, the Bingos were better, the quizes were more challenging, and the comedian and juggler were EXCELLENT. It was just a GREAT day. The last Las-Vegas style show was "Hey Mambo", and this one had better costumes, and was more fun for the crowd, but I liked Party Time's singing and dancing better.
Overall, the staff was fair, the food was bad, the ship was pretty, and the activities were numerous. My only complaint is they need less Bingo, and more trivia. They also need to add "What's in the Bag." Oh, and the Camp Carnival is great for the under 12 crowd. Hope this was helpful!
This is a short review of our cruise on the Sensation on 5/10/04. If you have any specific questions, please let me know.
On the first day, we arrived at the pier at 11:30AM, went through the sign in process and were assigned a group number to board. Ours was #7. They did not start boarding until about 12:40PM, and each group takes about 5-10 min. to board. We went directly to our cabin, put on our swim suits, and headed up to the Lido deck for some lunch. There is a nice variety of food, however, there is only 1 carving station in the back on the starboard side (not the same on both sides), and they have a poolside grill area that serves hot dogs/hamburgers/fries every day for lunch. Then we went to explore the ship, very easy to navigate, as this was our 3rd Carnival cruise. All the ships decks are set up the same way. The centrum is gorgeous, bright brass, and lots and lots of purple colors. The casino deck also has most of the nightclub activities and bars. It is called sensation boulevard. Really nicethe way it is set up.
The first day at sea: we got up and realized we had no water in the cabins. Thankfully the toilets flushed. There was some sort of problem with the water, and we were without water for about 4 hours. In the breakfast area, the waitresses served fresh water from gallon jugs. The water problem was fixed shortly with no real problems.
This is the evening of the Captains dinner, and beforehand, there is a captains party with free drinks and hor durvs. The dinner menu serves lobster and prime rib as their main entrees, along with 4 other choices. They have many different photo opportunities set up for formal sittings, and many informal with various backgrounds. You can have your pictures taken, with no obligation to purchase them. There was an evening show, followed by a comedian at midnight and he was very good, (very X rated).
The next day, we tendered into Grand Cayman. We got off the ship about 8:30, and we got a van down to the seven mile beach. We only had couple hours there, as the last tender leaves at 1:15. Our son (20) and 3 others did the snorkel excursion through the ship that was snorkelling and a shipwreck. The cost was $39.00 each. I just saw the underwater photos, and now I wish we would have gone. There were lots of colored fish, and the ship wreck is an actual wreck, not a homemade one. Lots of people complain about this being close to where the actual ships drop anchor, but if that is where the snorkeling is best, then I see no problem with that, but you do have to tender over to the island, then get on the excursion boat to come back out. I know next time I get back to Grand Cayman, I will do this.
The next day, we docked in Cozumel. From all the websites I had read, It was stated that the Sensation docks at the International Pier. We docked at the Puerta Maya pier. This is actually right next to the International Pier. Right at the pier, there is lots of shopping, and rental cars. We rented a van (there were 7 of us in our group), went downtown to San Miguel to check things out, then stopped back at the ship for lunch. We then drove south to visit some of the beaches. Our first stop was San Franciso beach. No entrance fee. I didn't care for the attitudes of the people at this beach. We then headed over to Mr. Sanchos beach. This is our favorite beach. We were just there last month. The little shops have lots of great stuff in them for less $$$ than in San Miguel, or the stores at the pier. You can get buckets of beer, cold drinks, and they have restrooms at this beach. They also have a small freshwater pool.
We than made the cirle around to the bottom of the island, and back up the eastern side of the island. The scenery is just beautiful and there are lots of photo opportunites along the way. The eastern shore is full of rocks, and large waves, so you can't swim on these beaches. There is only 1 road that goes around the island, so you cannot get lost. Be sure to have gas in the vehicle, as there are no gas stations along the other side of the island.
We then stopped in San Miguel to visit Carlos & Charlies, Senor Frogs, and any last minute shopping. We returned the rental at the pier, and went to Fat Tuesdays and had drinks while the sun went down, and saw the ship all lit up. A really beautiful sight to see.
On the way back on the ship, the photographers were snapping pictures. This was a little different, but we laughed about taking pictures of all the drunks getting back on. Guess what? It was the picture I bought!
The last day was at sea. The ocean was a little rough. white caps, and waves maybe 8 ft. I didn't think they were to bad, but lots of people were talking about how rough it was. Again, the weather was wonderful.
The service in the dining room was excellent. The only problem I personally had was our waiter was a lady, and she would recite the dessert menu. After the 2nd night, I asked her if I could see the dessert menu, and she said, it is what I told you, like she didn't have them to give out. Not that is was really a problem, but I like to look at the different selections, then decide which one or two I might want. So fromm then on, I made sure I read the menu outside ahead of time so I knew exactly what was on it. Each night, they have about 6 appetizers, 2 types of salads, 6 main entrees, and 4 desserts to choose from. Everything will change every night. The food is served gourmet style. Portions are not large, but very tasty. You can order more than one entree if you would like, or as much as you would like, as some of the appetizers are very tasty and is hard to choose just one!
There is a midnight buffet every night. First day at sea was the Grand buffet, Day of Cozumel was mexican buffet (best dessserts), and the last night was crepes buffet. Can't remember the other nights. Pizza is excellent, and they have a deli for sandwiches in the very back beside the pizza. They also have tables outside right along the siderails of the ship to eat at. They were really neat.
There is a welcome back party on wed. evening for people that have cruised before. It is an hour long with free drinks and hor durves too.
Overall, this was a great cruise. I just love being on them. It is inexpensive for 5 days. The only reason I wouldn't go on this ship again is that I want to go on as many different ships as I can, but I would highly recommend this cruise.
I know I forget lots of things, but I do still have the Carnival Capers. If you have any other questions, let me know.
This was my 5th cruise. We are in our mid 40's and from Ohio. I can't wait to cruise again, but don't have one booked right now.
Hope everyone has a great cruise. Debbie
Just returned from our first cruise ever on Carnival Sensation. Myself, husband and 2 daughters. We booked our flight thru Carnival and my only complaint about that was that none of our seats were together on the plane. We tried to change seats ahead of time, but the flight was full. We managed to switch seats on the plane so at least my younger daughter and I could sit by each other. There was a whole section of the plane with people who booked thru Carnival and no one had their airline seat together!! We were meet at the airport by Carnival representatives, and taken to the port on 2 tour buses. Embarkation did not take very long, maybe 15 minutes waiting in line, 10 minutes to get sail and sign cards and we were on the ship!
Our cabin was on Empress Deck aft, oceanview. The girls especially enjoyed having the window. If you have kids, I think it is worth the extra money. We had early seating in the Ecstasy Dining room. We shared our table with another very nice family. Food was pretty good, although I have noother cruise to compare it with. However, our drink waiter was very slow. Twice our regular waiter had to get the sodas for the kids, because the drink waiter never came back. There is one formal night dinner which we did not do because my husband refused to dress up!! Next cruise, the girls and I will do the formal dinner by ourselves. I heard it was very nice.
First night and day at sea were very rough. The boat rocked quite a bit. Did not bother me, but bothered my daughter. Camp Carnival is a great program for kids, oh yeah, there were almost 800 children aboard this cruise, mostly families. My oldest was too old for camp carnival, she found a friend and hung out at the teen disco "Spirals" each night. During the day, they pretty much hung out trying to get some sun on deck. Younger daughter, 11, was at a real in between age. Camp Carnival is divided in age groups, 9-11 and then 12-15. The younger group was doing things she thought were too babyish, and the older group was doing dances and things she was not quite ready for yet. WE ate all our lunches at either the Seaview Grill or the Pool Grill. Both are buffet style eateries, with the Pool Grill always had hamburgers and hot dogs.
Grand Cayman: We booked a Stingray City excursion thru the boat and am I glad we did. We got to Grand Cayman and the cruise director (Jorge, who is great, by the way) announces that the port of Georgetown is closed because of high swells and strong currents. Since the boat tenders passengers in, it did not look promising. Our boat continued around the island to another small dock were 2 larger cruise ships were already anchored, and began tendering in passengers from there. We sat in the Fantasia lounge for 2 and a half hours before our group was called to tender in for our excursion. Many excursions were cancelled, due to length of time involved, and I'm sure if we had booked one on our own, we would have not gone. Many people were angry about the situation, but you can't control the weather! Many people chose not to even go on to the island because of the time involved. We are glad we did, if you have kids, you have to do the Stingray city. It is an unforgettable experience!! Even with the large number of people on our boat (about 40), there was plenty of room for everyone to touch, hold, feed and play with the sting rays.
Leaving from Grand Cayman to Cozumel, it was very rough and windy. This time, the rocking of the boat affected my other daughter. It was so windy on deck that most people went inside.
We arrived at Cozumel on schedule, which surpised me because we left Grand Cayman an hour late. There was not any problem getting off the boat, because the boat docks there. We went shopping, and then to Chankaanaab Park, becasue we had booked a Dolphin Swim ahead of time thru Dolphin Discovery. The park is very nice, and we loved the Dolphin Swim, although we felt that the people at Dolphin Discovery were disorganized. It was confusing at first, the guy spoke broken English and would tell us to line up here, then another guy tells us to line up over there. You would think they do this every day, they would know what to do. The swim was well worth it, though, it is something we will never forget. By all means, pay the extra money ($35.00) for the video they take. They do a nice job with it. If you're up for spending cash, the pictures are also pretty expensive($12-20 dollars per print). However, it took the cashier 15 minutes to total up and charge my bill. She just didn't seem to know what she was doing. We went back to the ship to eat dinner, as my husband couldn't see spending money for dinner when it's "free" on the ship! Then we went back to the shops right by the dock and did some more shopping and my daughters got their hair braided. We returned to the ship at about 11:00 PM. The captain had extended our stay to 12:00 because of Grand Cayman being shortened. We had a great Mexican buffet on the ship and watched the drunks staggering back to the ship.
Last day at sea was very windy, but the seas were calmer. We never had trouble finding a deck chair. Yes, many people reserve them, even though you are not supposed to. Lots of activities on deck, there is always something to see or do. Bingo is a little pricey, $10.00 for one card, $20.00 for three cards. My husband did the casino a little bit, we are not gamblers. The shows we saw were all great, they had 2 different comedians, and the Sensation dancers did two different shows both were great. WE did not have a chance to see every show.
Disembarkation was similar to what I had read before. We had to sit in the Fantasia Lounge from 8:45 until we were cleared to leave at about 10:00 AM. After that, it was not hard to find our luggage in the "terminal" as we had bright colored ribbons on it. The bus took us back to Tampa airport in plenty of time for our 1:30 flight home.
All in all, we had a great time. My oldest daughter (16) said it was the best vacation we had ever done. I read many complaints ahead of time about the decor. WE thought it was fine. OUr kids thought purple was cool. The ship is very clean and our cabin steward was always cleaning our cabin. The pool water is salt water, not a problem, but the pools were all too cold for much swimming. We hung out in the hot tubs, which at times was difficult, because all the kids were hanging out in the hot tubs, too.(Not sitting in them but playing around and splashing each other). I would definitely go on a cruise again, hopefully the weather will cooperate better!!
The Sensation is most assuredly Purple, but sailing on her will definitely NOT leave you blue.
Initially I thought her quite a gaudy ship. But, I have to admit she really grew on me as our week onboard passed.
The combination of the ship, the staff, and the passengers create such a relaxed atmosphere onboard it's difficult to view even the things I didn't care for with much of a critical eye. And that's a good thing. What more could one want from a vacation than to have even the things you don't like seem inconsequential?
To be honest, I don't think there's an inch of the Sensation I would consider elegant, but I'd be pleased to sail on her again.
The ship is pretty well laid out. With the Atrium, and Sensation Boulevard being the focal points. Other than passenger cabin decks, the promenade deck, where Sensation Boulevard it located, is the only interior deck, which runs the length of the ship. Therefore it's wise to use this deck for all your fore and aft movements. Go up to Lido deck or down to the dining rooms from here.
The Fantasy Diningroom is located mid ship, just off the Atrium, and the Ecstasy Dining Room is located aft. Both are pretty much identical, and are served by one galley located between the two.
The Polo lounge, aft on Sensation Boulevard, served as our meeting spot for before dinner drinks, as well as the place to meet after dinner to decide where we were off to next.
The Plaza lounge is located immediately aft of the Polo lounge. This is the second largest lounge onboard, and is used for some of the late night R rated comedy acts. A trio played there in the evenings, but other than for the late night shows, I rarely saw more than a handful of people in the place.
The Ecstasy Dining Room, where we dined, was located immediately below the Plaza lounge, and there were a few evening the "thump, thump, thump" of the Plaza lounge entertainment could be easily heard at our table.
The "hot spot" on this sailing seemed to be Michaelangalo's Lounge. It was packed most every night.
This trip I didn't see a lot of the shows in the main show room, but from my experience, with those I did attend; the showroom has a few too many posts, which do affect the sight lines considerably.
As I stated in one of my live reports from the ship, Sensation Boulevard is VERY dark. In fact I found most of the public areas and lounges were kept too dark.
We held the two CruiseMates group cocktail parities in the Plaza lounge, and it was so dark, even photos I took using the flash on the camera were dark.
With our group, I was able to see various different cabin categories. All were fairly large, and seemed to be well kept, but are pretty basic. No couches or chairs to lounge in, except in the suites.
We had a CAT. 11, demi suite, with balcony. This cabin is well laid out, but is really comparable to standard balcony cabins on the newer Carnival ships in size and layout.
I wouldn't consider this a suite as compared to today's newer industry standards.
The balcony is probably the smallest we've had on any ship yet.
What is really peculiar about these balconies is they look down on the Promenade deck, 1 deck below, rather than down at the sea.
All the Category 11 cabins are located toward the bow, and one deck higher and forward is an observation deck. Because of this design, the "private balconies" of these cabins are more of a viewing area, than private balconies. Not a bad spot for people watching, but then it means they can watch you as well.
Food - on this cruise ranged from good, to great, to outstanding in the dining room. I felt the menus got stronger and more interesting as the week went on.
Normally the best menus of the cruise seem to be reserved for formal nights, but we didn't notice that on this sailing. Each night was terrific!
The buffets on Lido deck didn't show the same attention. There is a buffet area and grill poolside on Lido, as well as inside. Neither impressed me much with the quality or selection of chaffing tray items.
The Grill's hamburgers and hot dogs weren't too bad for a quick lunch, and in my view Carnival still has the best pizza at sea.
What really "made this cruise" was the staff onboard. This seems like a very happy crew. especially in all the service areas. From cabin stewards through bar waiters/resses, dining room staff, maitre d s, and including the hotel manager, almost everyone seemed interested in making this an enjoyable vacation for the passengers.
I had one problem onboard, and it was remedied as soon as I mentioned it. I believe this speaks volumes. In my mind, the manner with which problems are dealt with is what can set people (cruise lines) apart. But, they have to know, to help. If you have a problem speak to the appropriate person in charge. Don't let the problem gnaw at you.
One shortcoming I've noticed on all of my Carnival cruises is the lack of any dedicated teen areas on their ships. Considering the large numbers of families who sail Carnival, I am especially surprised to see this hasn't been addressed, even on their newer Destiny Class ships.
I expressed many of my opinions about the Sensation in articles I wrote for CruiseMates live from the ship, so I won't rehash them here. If you hadn't read them already, just do a search from the CruiseMates Home Page.
Summary - If you're looking for a relaxed, fun, comfy cruise experience, don't hesitate to try this ship. There's no question you'll get full value for your dollar on the Sensation. Kuki, CruiseMates Cruise Director.
A little background information regarding this trip report: This was my 2nd cruise and first time on Carnival, as well as first Caribbean cruise. My only other cruise had been on the Olympic Countess sailing the Greek Islands in '98. We sailed out of Tampa on the Sensation on Monday, 11/10. We had a 5-night cruise and hit Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico. I went on the cruise with my mom and I am 35 and my mom is 71.
I took my mom on this cruise for her birthday and she had a blast! First off, we flew in the same day of the cruise so I was pretty nervous about missing the ship but the flight was on time and we took a shuttle to the pier and seemed like we were on the ship in no time! The ship décor was pretty out there but wasn't too bad. We had lunch up on the Lido deck and weren't too impressed with the lunch buffet. After that, we ate just about every meal in the dining room and the food was great! I like the dining room alsobecause you have less of a tendency to pig out as you do at the buffet. The food presentation was very good and I liked everything I ordered. Favorites were the Lobster (of course!), California Roll as a lunch appetizer, and the fried shrimp with wasabi mashed potatos for dinner. My mom really liked the food in the dining room also. Deserts were better in the dining room than on the Lido deck as well.
Our room was R150, so it was an inside room on the bottom deck of the ship. After waking up the first morning in complete darkness-I wish I would have paid the extra $ for a window! Oh well, will do this next cruise J (Yes, mom and I are already planning our next Carnival cruise!). The room was large and clean and the shower was pretty decent as well. The room was not noisy at all, which was a relief as our inside room on the Greek cruise was soooooooo noisy.
My mom couldn't wait to hit the casino (she spent a lot of time there). It was not bad-lots of different variety of slots, which is the only thing that she plays.
I don't remember everything we did but here is some highlights from the days at sea: We played Bingo quite a bit and I won $250! The only gripe about Bingo is that it was expensive ($10 a card) and we only would play one game (except for the last day, in which we played 10 games). We enjoyed the Horse Race and I actually won an auction for one of the horses! I had to take the horse around the ship with me and try to promote it for the last day at sea final horse race. I didn't really come up with a decent story for the horse or dress it up (I'm on vacation-I didn't want to have to work!) so needless to say I lost the popularity contest for my horse (as well as the final race) but it was a lot of fun. We also did "Who Wants to be a Millionaire", where I did pretty well but didn't win. Also played some trivia, which was fun as well.
Saw 2 of the shows and thought they were better than I expected. Typical Vegas-style shows but they were enjoyable and I would recommend seeing them. Never was able to stay up late enough for the comedian or the fancy buffet, unfortunately. Drinks were a bit pricey so if I do another cruise I might pack some of my own wine J
For the day at Grand Cayman (actually, only ½ a day as we were there from 7am to 2pm), I had booked my own excursion to String Ray City through Nativeway and was glad I did. We had a blast! We had a bit of a delay getting off of the ship in Grand Cayman but once we got to the pier we found someone from Nativeway who took us to a van that took us to our boat at the yacht club. There were about 14 people on our boat. The water was so warm at Sting Ray City! Even my mom, who ordinarily does not swim, went in with the stingrays and she said it was the highlight of the trip! After spending about ½ an hour at sting ray city, we went to the coral gardens nearby, where we were allowed to snorkel in about 12-15 feet of water. I really enjoyed this-even more so than the stingrays! After Nativeway got us back to the pier, we didn't have much time to shop so we went back to the ship.
The next day in Cozumel was nice, as we didn't have to tender to get to the island like we did in Grand Cayman as the ship docked at the pier. I booked an excursion through Carnival on the mermaid Sub-Ocean view. We shopped a little at the pier before going on the excursion. It lasted about an hour and a ½ and was $45. It was good but I enjoyed the Sting Ray City excursion through Nativeway much better and it was almost ½ the cost! After this we took a cab to Chankanaab, as I had heard many good things about it. I am glad we did this because the park was beautiful! It was semi crowded but there were still chairs for us to sit in on the beach. There were about 3 spots where you can go into the water and swim or snorkel. I rented a mask and breathing tube (?) and snorkeled for about 2 hours! It was better snorkeling than I had thought it was going to be. My mom came in the water for a little bit and just relaxed on the beach. Later, we hit a little bar and I had some great guacamole. We walked around the nature trails before we left. We shared a cab back to the pier with another couple so that was nice. We went back to the ship for dinner before heading back out to shop. We headed downtown to do a little shopping, although prices weren't much better than at the Pier. We really enjoyed Cozumel.
I think that about covers it-we were impressed with Carnival, as I didn't know what to expect as the cruise was so cheap! I definitely would cruise with Carnival again. The service was great everywhere we went on the ship and felt appreciated by Carnival staff at all times while on the cruise. I think the next cruise I will try to find one with fewer days at sea though, as I enjoyed the days at port a little more. But there was always something to do on the ship and I didn't get bored at all J
This was my family's first cruise. My wife and I are 33, with two kids, ages 7 and 5. We have been to Mexico many times, but this was our first trip to Cozumel.
The embarkation process was smooth and easy. If you're traveling with kids, be sure their birth certificates are certified copies of the state-issued certificate. One lady next to us had the one given by the hospital and it didn't work. We were in the seventh group, and got on board after about 15 minutes' processing time. (One of the security screeners saw something suspicious that delayed a bunch of folks who came after us. Turns out it was a decorative belt buckle.)
The muster drill was fine. I get a little claustrophobic with the super-thick life vest, but if needed it beats the alternative. We had a casual lunch at the Sea View Lounge, and the food was good. My kids love buffets and getting their own food.
I thought I had packed all carry-on luggage, but it turns out garment bags are not considered carry-on and must be checked. Our luggage was late getting to the room.
Ourcabin (M58) was comfortable. We put the beds together without much trouble and the kids loved the bunks. I loved the location. When you come out of the room you are by the main stairs that lead to the atrium. The center of the ship has the least motion. My wife gets carsick easily, so I was concerned how she would do. The only trouble she had was when we were leaving the Port of Tampa. The ship does a lot of turning there, so you get more side-to-side movement. I felt a little uncomfortable, but when I ate dinner that passed. Everyone was fine for the rest of the trip. I heard some people say the rooms were cold, but we like it cold when we sleep, so we didn't really notice that. There was no noticeable odor in the bathrooms.
The food was good -- not great. I found some of the desserts to be a little bland, while others were pretty rich. Our waiters in the Fantasy dining room were not very attentive. We were the only two at the table, and that might have been why. We got the best service the night in Mexico, and did not go back to the main dining room on the last night. If you have kids, they will get served very quickly and will have finished eating and be bored by the time you get your entree. Our kids preferred eating in the Sea View Lounge, as did my wife and I. To go back and get all dressed up when the food knocks your socks off is one thing. But looking back, I think I would just as soon have gone to the Sea View and not have to mess with getting all dolled up.
Camp Carnival is outstanding. The kids had a blast. My son is a little strong-willed and I am used to getting called by day care to come check on him. However, he had a blast and didn't want to leave most times. The only tough thing -- and it isn't necessarily a bad thing -- is that you drop the kids off at 9 a.m. and have to be back at noon, then drop them off again at 2 p.m. and be back at 5 p.m., then drop them off at 6 p.m. We had planned to spend family time anyways, but here is the tough part: My wife and kids like to sleep in. So if you eat at 10:30 a.m., by the time you drop the kids off it's less than an hour until pick-up. I know they are trying to keep parents from "dumping" the kids at 9 a.m. and not getting them until 10 p.m., but that was still the toughest part to work around for us.
Like everyone else said, the crew was constantly cleaning. Don't set a piece of paper, a schedule, a map or any other literature down at a table and think that will hold it for you. They will think it is trash and clean it up. Everything is purple, but it is fine. I would have never noticed carpet stains if several people hadn't mentioned it here. Usually those stains are in hallways of cabin areas.
Cozumel was fantastic. We got a late start; the ship was pretty empty by 11 a.m. They'll try to sell you little bottles of water for $1.95 each, but if you wait until you get to the duty-free shop on the pier, you can save some money. Besides, most of the nice shops like Diamond International (which is like every third store) has a five-gallon water cooler where you can fill up.
We didn't do the shore excursions. We went shopping. I found the deals on the pier were as good as any in town, and most of the same stores were there. The vendors on the carts are more likely to bargain than they are in the shops. If you want leather or jewelry, there are plenty of good deals to be found. We went to the shopping class that was put on by Carnival. Don't waste your time with that; pick up the map and the paper with the raffle coupons at the desk on the Promenade deck.
We went back to the ship about 4 p.m., ate at the Sea View and put on our swim suits. Where the pier meets the shore, there is a bar to the right that has steps down into the water. We took the kids there and they had a blast swimming and snorkeling. You don't see all the colorful fish like at the reefs, but for a 5- and 7-year-old it was enough. We saw needlefish, angelfish, sea urchins, a lion fish, a small flounder, some crabs, tons of little fish schooling, and so on. The nice thing about going here is that we were close to the ship in case something happened.
One lady ahead of us had rented a scooter and fallen off of it. When she took the scooter back, the guy refused to give her ship's ID card back. She was too emotional at the time to explain why, but she didn't have it and it didn't appear they were going to let her on very easily with out it. So, the moral of the story is, guard your card. I recommend you get a neck strap and punch a hole in the card and put it on that.
The trip back was uneventful and restful. Disembarkation went smoothly, and I carried everything off instead of trying to find it in the sea of luggage.
Some tips I found useful: (1) Downy Wrinkle release. (2) Pack an extra duffle bag for souvenirs. (3) Don't buy the "drink of the day" or your credit card will be maxed out by the time you leave. (4) Take every opportunity to have your picture taken by the Carnival people and check the photo lounge often as they pull them down regularly. The picture taking is free; the pictures cost $19.95 to buy, but you might find some really good photos. (5) Take the opportunity to try things you wouldn't ordinarily: Hairy chest contest, roasted pumpkin soup, talent show, karaoke, etc. (6) Laying out is great, but you can do that anywhere, as you can drinking until you pass out. (7) If you are a smoker, be aware of where you are smoking. Lots of people don't care for it, but won't say anything. (8) The two-way radios are awesome and worked everywhere on the boat. When in Mexico, we could split up and feel pretty comfortable. (9) Get those more expensive batteries for digital cameras, radios, etc. (Energizer E2 or Duracell with blue band) and you will find they last a WHOLE lot longer than regular batteries for about $1-$2 more a pack. (10) Don't take an untested pair of walking shoes. (11) Introduce yourself to the people in the cabins next to you while waiting for the muster drill. (12) Order room service. (13) Get a panoramic camera and take a picture from the spa deck at the very front of the ship while halfway there. It is breathtaking.
This was one of our best vacations ever. I look forward to going back soon.
Parking We parked in the long term garage before dropping off our bags. It looked like a madhouse driving by so we just decided to park first. Parking was $40 ($10/day) and was in a covered garage.
Embarkation I was told we would start boarding at 1 p.m. but we got there around noon and were on board within an hour of parking our car. It was very organized and we were impressed. Not sure how many total groups they had, but we were in group 15. A new group was called to board about every 10-15 minutes.
Cabin We were in R136 (deck 4). The beds will lock together and will make a king size, so when you see two twins, don't panic. My husband tried locking them together but couldn't do it, so we slept next to each other but didn't share the sheets. The 3rd night (don't know why it took this long) the steward had locked them and given us king-sized bedding. The lighting was fine, the room was nice and we have no complaints about it. I do wish there was some kind of bench/seat inthe shower, but can't have it all I guess.
Food/Service Absolutely incredible. We have no complaints at all. We ate in the dining room for dinner every night and had lunch and breakfast in there twice. The selection and quality of the food in the dining room can't compare to the poolside buffet. The buffet area, Seaview Bar and Grille, had decent food and we ate there when we needed a snack. You'll have lunch there the first day on board. The soft ice cream machine wasn't cold enough, so it came out half melted, but the fat free yogurt tasted pretty good and didn't melt before it hit the cone. Our waiter team, Roberto and Sena in Fantasy Dining Room were great. Our room steward was great too. We never ordered room service. If you want something to drink that isn't from the bar you've got to get it, otherwise every 2 minutes someone circulating will ask you about ordering a drink from the bar.
Entertainment/Activities We only went to one show, the last night and it was the adult comedy show. The guy was very offensive but very funny. We were warned before he came out that he was going to be dirty and offensive, but no one left and we didn't hear any complaints. We heard the dancers weren't too great but we didn't see them. They had a newlywed game, talent show, Survivor, hairy chest game, and a few other activities, but we didn't participate or watch any of those. They take a video that you can buy and will air it on the tv in your cabin, so if you miss something on deck, chances are you'll see it there.
Pools/Towels The pool with the slide was salt water. We didn't go in because of the herd of kids in there. We didn't go in the hot tubs either, but heard they're fresh water. The deck chairs were taken by 9:30 a.m. with towels, bags and shoes of other people who were nowhere in site. That really bothered us and people we had dinner with in the dining room. Carnival didn't do anything that we saw about it and that bothered us also. You don't need to bring towels. There's plenty in the cabin and by the pool. The $22 towels are for shore excursions and they're delivered to the room the day before and collected that night or the day after. If you don't leave them to be picked up by your steward, you're charged $22 per.
Debarkation We were off the ship by 9:45 and on our way home by 10:15 a.m. The system is organized and ran smoothly. Make sure to mark your bags somehow-we put bright ribbon on ours to help them to stand out amongst the other black suitcases.
The ship is very clean and maintained. Overall we had an ok time. I didn't like the loud music by the pools and the kids running around everywhere either. My husband's in the military and they're offering great rates-we paid less than $200 each. If we had to pay regular rates we wouldn't have gone. We certainly got our money's worth though with the food alone. I probably wouldn't cruise on Carnival again because we like quiet, relaxing and room which we got none of those unless we were in our cabin. If you like to party, meet people, drink and dance then you'll have a blast..we just think of ourselves as "sticks in the mud."
This was my 6th cruise, second on Carnival. It was a Spring Break treat for my girls, ages 9 and 13.
Embarking We got to the ship at 11:30, waited in line for 15 minutes and were told to wait in holding area until #4 group was called. We followed couple in front of us, gave the fellow our info and he pointed us toward sail and sign machine, where we got pics and cards. Then, the lady asked , "which wedding party are you with?" OOPS! We were in the wrong area, LOL. She told us to sit tight and they'd call us- very nice people here! After wedding party got on board, general boarding was started at 12:30 and guess who got on first?? LOL! The new LINDA method for early boarding! Still laughing. Riviera deck inside cabin. It was fine. Leonardo kept it clean, complete with towel animals nightly. Carnival supplies toothpaste, shampoo, razors, tums gratis. Nice touch!
Ship This is the ugliest ship, alas. Purple walls, halls decorated in various shades of purple, fuschia, mauve, orange and green. Orange cabins. There is a sewage smell in roomsand in halls. Later, we find that that smell is masked by cigarette smoke in the halls, in front of elevators and all through Sensation Boulevard. I could barely use the internet cafe because it was surrounded by smoky bars. People even smoked in the non-smoking sections of this ship. I had lung problems by the second day which still are present the second day home. It was an older ship, showing the wear, but it was kept clean constantly.
The exercise room had 7 treadmills and signs disallowing running on them. What's a runner to do? NEVER have seen this. There was a "jogging track" above that, but unless you're a hamster would go crazy doing some 22 laps to a mile. There were free weights, but we were crowded together trying to use them. Machines were Keiser resistance-types and I didn't like them.
Pool area was busy first day at sea, and we never got a chair. Second sea day was better. The 2 bars couldn't handle drink orders- only 2 bartenders and it took 25 minutes to get a vodka/tonic. I went to inside bar and took my drink to pool. We loved the ice carving display and enjoyed the "Hairy Chest" contest, because of some good-natured types who took the fun ship attitude to heart. The staff was wonderful in getting people to participate. We enjoyed the reggae band around the pool- not great musicians, but good entertainers with lots of energy.
Dining We were assigned late seating, but had it changed on second day. George "The Greek" was the most enjoyable Maitre'D I've seen! We shared a table with a couple from GA with a 5 yr old son, her mother and aunt.Lovely people. We all compared dishes and honest opinions. Our waiters were Vigor from Phillipines and the lovely Laura from Latvia. They were excellent! Food was disappointing. Lobster was done very well, but other fish dishes were overcooked. I rarely eat meat, but had beef twice as it was the best-prepared meat. The Beef Wellington was a bit tough, but the sliced sirloin was tasty. Kids had Tom Turkey which was quite good. Soups were good- especially the Minestrone and Gumbo. A little different than the originals, but at least had some flavor. The food overall was very bland.The singing waiters were fun for the kids. The dining room has a metallic ceiling with neon bulbs and colored background lights. It seemed quite garish to me.
The Seaview Bar and Grill (buffet) was also metal walls, ceilings and metal chairs which at times were COLD. I didn't like the atmosphere at all. We ate outside one morning, but people were smoking on non-smoking side and it was blowing in our faces and nobody would stop them. The food here was standard- pizza 24 hrs, ice cream plus a salad bar and 2 buffet lines. Hamburgers , hot dogs and french fries by pool.The salad bar had only one lo-fat dressing all week. No variety per se- salads mayonnaise-based. Vegetarian dish one day was Pasta Alfredo- NOT a healthy choice. Only one day did they have a vegetable curry, which was good.Omelets were available at breakfast, but no salsa for eggs or cottage cheese or stewed prunes as they offer on RCCL. They need to add at least one bean/grain dish for vegetarians. I thought the Jubilee had better food, surprisingly.
Entertainment I can't review this thoroughly, as my kids were with me and I didn't club it much. They used a lot of "midi" (pre-recorded tracks) in piano bar and in one show room. The piano bar was filled with college kids; I had no desire to go in anyway. We enjoyed the swing band at Captain's party- this is where Carnival does it right! They walked around with drinks and hors d'oeuvres and we enjoyed hearing from the Captain and Cruise director- who did splendid jobs.
We went to both shows in the Fantasia Lounge;" Hey Mambo" and the "Party" show. We enjoyed both very much. I'm a musician, so I tend to be critical. One thing, I heard a male solo voice, but never saw him. Was it pre-recorded? It was difficult to see from almost anywhere in the balcony. Very poorly designed.The lead female was very good- she covered a variety of songs.
We went to the "Feud Game" and the game shows and enjoyed them. Jen, one of the entertainment directors, was darling. My kids insisted on Bingo, and though I'd rather spend money elsewhere, I obliged. It was a bit of fun! We enjoyed the magician and the comedians as well.
Ports: Grand Cayman. We went to Coral Gardens and Stingray City on 2-hr 8:30 am tour with Capt. Marvin's (my second time). We barely made it , as the ship was late running tenders. Get down there early! Once again, they were superb. Only 14 people on the boat- much better than ship's "sardine-boat" excursion. Kids loved the rays; especially loved snorkeling where they saw eels, mantas, barracuda and assorted fish and coral. I made them wear a life vest, and am glad I did..they didn't get tired and I didn't have to watch them constantly, which is tough while snorkeling.
Cozumel. We took the ferry to Playa del Carmen and taxi to XCaret on our own. What a great time we had! Spent over 8 hours here and wanted more! We swam in the underground river, which wasn't nearly as cold as reported. I'm a swimmer and I can tell you temperatures within 2-3 degrees accuracy! They said 62 degrees, but it was at least 70. My kids loved it. Try not to follow a group, but get in by yourselves for a relaxing float. The butterfly farm, the aviary, and all the other attractions were so entertaining for my little nature lovers. The paths are quite shady and tropical-we didn't get overheated, though we walked at least 5 miles. We enjoyed the cove for swimming and playing in tubes. Very calm water- good for any age. I managed a good swim here. The snorkeling isn't much- some rocks, not much reef. A few fish. We saw a few "ruins" and enjoyed seeing the village where they displayed folk arts and crafts and wove fabrics, ground corn, etc. I really enjoyed the buffet lunch ($19) at their largest restaurant...it was tasty and spicy! Delicious..I was craving some flavor. We didn't get back to the ship till 8 o'clock- glad I had a big lunch because I couldn't find one thing on the buffet that was good.
Debarking We had brown tags, and were called at around 9:30. We filed down steps from Lido Deck with LOTS of people smoking at every level- literally blowing it in our faces. The man behind me said, "this is worse than a bowling alley!" I coughed for 15 minutes. Sped through luggage area and customs and headed back to lovely Tampa airport , the most efficient place in the USA. Wish more ships could cruise from here.
Summary We knew there would be lots of kids and expected good and bad. Many of them were running wild through the halls screaming at 2, 4 am. It disrupted my sleep. Parents? Security? There were quite a few mullets, tattoos, Nascar shirts and beer bellies. Not quite your ballet and opera crowd, LOL. However, we met lots of nice people on the ship. Except for some kids and some very rude smokers, most people were polite and well-mannered. Most observed the dress code, but there were some in shorts in dining room nightly.
The staff and crew on the ship were excellent. Our weather was perfect- we only felt movement on last night, and it wasn't bad. If I ever cruise with Carnival again, it will be on the smoke-free Paradise or maybe one of the brand new ships. My experience with Royal Caribbean has been better- but I admit, I'm spoiled by the mega ships. I would hesitate to recommend this ship to some people, yet I had a good time. I have been as honest and thorough in this review as possible.
If anyone has questions, feel free to write me at LLindaC@aol.com.