Sensation by Debbie Dean Western Caribbean February 8, 2003
First let me say THANK YOU to everyone here for all the help, advice and tips. I was a newbie, but I felt better informed and prepared than some of the seasoned cruisers! Second, this may be a long review so get ready! :rolleyes:
We flew out of Milwaukee at 6:15am on Saturday. I was very nervous about flying down the same day we sailed, but it worked out great. I think next time we will go a day early though. I don't think my nerves could handle it again! We had a connecting flight in Memphis and landed in Tampa at 11:55am. Caught a cab to the pier (2 people, 4 pieces checked luggage, 2 carry-on = $21.00 with tip). When we got out of the cab we were greeted by a porter. He found our cabin number (V10, an awesome upgrade! We had booked a 6A GTY. Of course I knew already because of the Kelly Method! :D) and we tipped him a buck a bag. Off we went to the line that leads into the terminal. I thinkit must've been about 12:45am. When we reached the first Carnival rep. we were directed to the Skippers Club check in. Nothing fancy, just a nice short line. We met a couple there that had no idea they had been upgraded! Of course as soon as they told me the cabin number I pulled out my deck plan and showed them the Cat. 12 they would be enjoying! I don't think they believed me until they saw the cabin! Boy, were they happy! After checking in and getting our S&S cards we went right to the ship. We were on board at 1:15pm. Time for a drink!!
This was our first cruise so we spent a lot of time gawking at the ship as we made our way to our cabin. We weren't expecting to see the guy video taping the pax as we boarded. We soon noticed him everywhere on the cruise and we would then watch the replay of the travelog on our TV in the cabin. Very fun. If you see him, be sure to wave! We didn't buy the video, but in hind sight I wish we would have. Sigh...
Our cabin was fantastic! Lots of room, lots of closet space. I had brought extra hangers and they came in handy. The balcony was small, but very cool to have. I loved sitting out there and watching the ocean and the people. I even saw schools of flying fish. The room steward was great. I wish we could've tipped him even more. Worth every penny. The room was always clean but we never saw him do it!
We had late seating for dinner (8:30pm). I think this worked out great for us. We never felt rushed in the ports (at least not because of our dinner time). The only drawback was we never made it to the midnight buffets! We were too full! Not to mention the late night comedy started at the same time. So I can't comment on that part, but our dinners were SUPERB!! Seafood Newburg, New York strip steak, Lobster, fish, quail, pasta, shrimp, escargo, Grand Mariner Souffle!!! YUM!!!! So many choices. It was always hot and fresh. Some of the best food I have ever eaten! The staff was wonderful. The only complaint I had was the drink waitress. We never saw her until the last night. But, I had read about that so we knew to expect it. that's ok, we drank our water (need to ingest something other than Pina Coladas and Miami Vices at some point, right?! :D) Our tablemates were fantastic. Hi Rick and Janice, Hi Bill and Diane! After dinner we all would hang out and go to shows together. Miss them already. :( We had a table for 10, but only 6 of us showed up every night. We never saw the other couples. We never ate breakfast or lunch in the dining room so I can't comment on it, sorry. We loved the made to order omolettes on the Lido deck buffet. Lots of choices, scrambled eggs, hash rounds, pancakes, french toast, bacon, sausage, oatmeal, cereals, bagels, taost, fruit and of course ice cream! That was a very popular dispenser after breakfast! Lunch menu always offered hot dogs, fries, burgers, salads. Other items varied. Fish fingers, chicken strips, pasta, etc. (One tip I learned here that was nice to know, the lines at the buffet are always shorter outside the dining room. Same food!) Inside the Seaview Grill (way to the back, by the pizza grill) at lunch they had a table set up with different things for lunch each day. One day it was crepes, the next Ceaser (sp.?) salad and other things I can't remember. We never had trouble finding a clean place to sit and eat. The pizza was good, not incredible but not bad. Always hot.
The shows were very good. We saw "Hey Mambo" and enjoyed it. The dancers are all really good. We saw 3 comedians, and 2 of them were VERY funny! We laughed out loud for an hour! Maurice Jovan was one and I just can't think of the other guy. The third guy was so bad we never went to see his midnight show.
The ports were fun. We did Stingray City, booked on- line in advance with Nativeway. They did a great job. We met Sharon at the dock right when she said she would be there. We took a bus to the marina, boarded a boat with Capt. Dean and first mate Sheldon and took off. First stop was snorkeling at Coral Gardens (not really a reef, but some corals, lots of fish. Water here was deep, about 12 feet. I used a life vest and did fine) then on to SRC. WOW....Those stingrays are HUGE! They are every where! Very tame. The water was about 3 1/2 feet deep. We all got a chance to hold them and feed and pet them. Lots of photo opps so don't forget the underwater cameras. We were only in Grand Cayman from 8am to 2pm, so after the stingrays all we could do was get in line to wait for a tender. The last one left at 1:15pm so the wait was very long. It was a shame we couldn't see more of the island. Be careful walking around the downtown area. Traffic was NUTS! Lots of cars and lots of tourists not paying attention. It is very congested.
Cozumel was fun. We went horseback riding through Buena Vista. Bus ride to the ranch was about 20 minutes. Our guide Aldo was a riot. He basically did a stand up routine the entire bus trip! :D The horses are in good shape and I know mine liked to run! Too fast! I have never been on a "trail ride" like this one and I have the bruises to prove it! :eek: This was not a slow walk along the trail. This was flat out galloping! For most of the trail! WOW It was a great time! On the other hand people that took the afternoon ride said the opposite. Well, they had a good time, but no galloping at all, so I guess it depends on the guide? After that we went to Playa sol. $28.50 pp through the ship. All drinks, non-motorized water toys (kayaks, paddle boats) and beach. We got there kind of late, like 3ish so we didn't get to do much. Did some snorkeling, not great but good. Lots of fish. Water was warm and very clear. Drinks were potent! My DH told the BT to go easy on the tequila for me and he said what's a margaritta with out tequila!? And then he poured it on! ;) Another tip...don't try to kayak for the first time after tequila. We thought we would kayak out to the big iceberg thing, climb that, slide into the water, how cool! Yeah, right! LOL First I dumped the kayak losing an oar, then lost Dh's sunglasses! Now try to climb this 3 story iceberg! HA! Couldn't even get out of the water! So we decided to go back to town and shop. Caught a cab (did you know that 141 kilometers per hour equals 90 miles an hour! Holy cow!! Look out for the chickens!!) and as we tried to enter the pier DH discovers he has lost his S&S card. Total panic on my part! Thankfully I have his DL in my bag! No problems getting back on...whew! Picked up new card and just had enough time to shop quickly and get back on board.
OK, this is getting long! Let me say we had a GREAT time and we will do it again as soon as possible. We were never bored. You can do as much or as little as you want. You can eat as much or as little as you want (I lost 2 lbs. without trying. I didn't deny myself anything either. We did take the stairs a lot and I never had room for too much food!) The staff was wonderful. Everyone we met was helpful and had a smile. The activities directors and cruise director (Lenny) are all great. They get everyone involved and make sure everyone has fun.
Some things I learned were.... that it gets very windy on the open decks.
There aren't enough ash trays.
There aren't enough signs pointing out the smoking sections (sides).
Need more hooks in the cabins. No where to hang wet suits, etc..
Save room for desserts!
We bought drink coupons and I think we may have drank more because of it! Next time we'll try without them.
Hammocks cannot be used as a carry-on. Almost cost us $80 to get it home on the airline!
If you take your luggage down to the infirmary to weigh it, you will get lots of funny looks. Just tell them you asked to get off and they said no!
I know I have seen this before, but it bears repeating...pack half the clothes you think you need and twice the money!!
And finally the most important thing I learned was...... CRUISING IS FUN!!!!!!!! :D
Comming back to reality....BITES!!!!!!!! :(
If anyone has any questions feel free to ask or e- mail me CelticD1@hotmail.com I have posted pics at Webshots.com, http://community.webshots.com/user/celticd1 Thanks again for all the help and I hope this helps someone else! Debbie :cool:
We are first time cruisers.Here's a little background on us.Were from the Chicago suburbs, married couple, late 30's both middle income, blue collar type workers.
We sailed on the Carnival Sensation out of Tampa Florida over Thanksgiving week. This was a Monday thru Saturday cruise.We arrived on Sunday the day before our cruise from Chicago and arrived at St Petersburg's airport and took a taxi ( $32.00 ) to the Mariott Waterside hotel which is located about 7 blocks from the cruise terminal.(We flew on ATA which does not fly into Tampa.) A new, beautiful hotel within walking distance to the cruise ship, wow!
Checking in was a breeze.We arrived about 12:30pm and were on the ship within an hour.They seem really organized checking people in.no problems here.
Sensation was built in 1993. It seem very well taken care of. Lots of purple, reminded me of Vegas.Crew members were always cleaning and polishing the boat.We had a inside cabin on the Upper floor. The room was great, much bigger then I thought. Big bathroom and shower as well.The room was nice and quiet, never any noise from the ship.We had a 8pm diningtime. We did not choose this, it was given to us on our sail and sign card. We booked this cruise ourselve's, no travel agent involved so we had no choice of dinner time at first. We could of had it changed if we wanted to but decided to see how the 8pm dining was.It was fine. At first I thought it might be a little too late but we still got to all the shows on time.Dinner was great, very fancy for us...and very good food ans service as well. We had a booth for 6 and met some nice people. Dining was suppose to be casual dress but it seemed people were dressed every which way, from shorts ( which are not suppose to be allowed) to suits and dresses. I was glad we did not have to get dressed up although we did the first night not knowing what to expect since this was our first cruise.We did get dressed up again for the Captain's party. Again some people overdressed and some underdressed. We had a lot of pictures taken which was nice since it's hard to get me into a suit.They had nice backdrop's placed all over for the pictures We missed most of the Captain's party due to all the picture taking...no big deal.We went to all the shows on the ship. We also went to the "R" rated comedian's at midnight as well. Everything was very entertaining. Carnival is one cruise line that will really keep you entertained all day long, there's always stuff to do.We checked out all the bars and the casino as well. Everyone semed to have a good time.I won $100.00 at the casino on the last night of the cruise which was nice.
Ports of Call
Our first stop was Grand Cayman. We did the Stingray/Hell/Turtle Farm Tour. We went to the sandbar to swim with the stingray's first. This was great. Crystal clear water only about 4 feet deep. Lot's of big friendly stingray's. We spent over an hour there. Back on land we went to the town of Hell where you can see some rock formation's and go to the store there and buy souvenirs and send postcards from "Hell". Next was the turtle farm. Lots of big turtles, some smaller one's you can pick up and get pictures taken with. Next door to the turtle farm is a Tortuga Rum store where you can buy the famous rum cakes...yum! The last tender was suppose to leave at 1:15pm...well we were still at the turtle farm at 1:15. On a Carnival shore tour the boat will not leave without you so we didn't worry. When we got back to where the tender leave's from, there were hundred's of people still waiting to board. Out cruise director told us we still had at least an hour to look around. We ended up taking the last tender back to the ship. There was a storm approaching and the waves were getting big. The tender had a very hard time docking next to the ship because of such large waves. The tender at one time hit the stairs where you board the ship so hard it broke the stairs. We had to cirle around at least three times before they were able to get everyone off the tender. We spent about an hour on that tender and since it broke one set of stairs we were about two hours late leaving Grand Cayman.We loved Grand Cayman and intend to return.
We loved Cozumel as well. We love all of Mexico.Since we arrived at 11am instead of 10am we got to leave an hour later. We were there from 11am until 11pm.We booked the Catamaran snorkel and beach party. This was a blast! We snorkeled for about an hour, just like swimming in an aquarium.There was unlimited beer and pop and margarita's on board as well.After that we went to a beach with an open bar, sea kayaks,hammocks, etc. This was a very relaxing beach. We stayed here about an hour.On the way back to the pier the party really started. Beers were flowing, people dancing, conga lines....what a fun time. This tour was from 2pm until 5:30pm After we got back to the ship we showered and changed clothes and took a cab to downtown Cozumel. Our first stop for Thanksgiving dinner was at Panchos Backyard restaurant. This place is beautiful. Wonderful food and if you like margarita's then this is the place to go. I love tequila and these margarita's were like 90 percent tequila.(Hint. If you plan to go here to eat, go to their website and print out their coupon for free margarita's with lunch or dinner)Best Thanksgiving dinner I ever had. Right next door is a store with over 200 different kinds of tequila to buy. We shopped a little after dinner before returning to the ship. Later on that night on the ship they had a Mexican buffet on the Lido deck which was cool.
We had a 12:30pm flight home. They said anyone with a flight before 1pm should meet at 8:45am in this Plaza lounge. Well by 9am we were walking down the stairs and off the ship. We found our luggage right away since we put yellow tape around our bags and were in a cab headed for the airport by 9:15am. This couldn't be any quicker and easier.
Being our first cruise we had a great time and never encountered any problems.We definitely would cruise on Carnival again.Our cruise director, Lenny Halliday was great, very entertaining and funny. A couple things we noticed that there seemed to be kids running wild every once in a while. I guess these parents think it's ok to let your kid go wild because he can't get far.Parents....control your spoiled brat kids!!Lots of people seemed to waste a lot of food which doesn't happen where I come from.You do and will feel the ship rock, although I never got sick from it,my wife did one day.We also are non-smokers and hardly ever noticed any smoke anywhere which was good. If you have any questions about this ship feel free to e-mail me, thanks.
We were first time cruisers. Everyone we had talked to about the cruise (friends) said we would never feel the boat and would not even know we were on a boat. We must have went at a bad time of the year because we felt the boat moving everyday. One night it was so bad we were walking like we had had too much to drink (we weren't drinking). Our cousin went with us so there were three of us in the room.
She got sick the one night that the boat was moving so much. Our room was nice and big enough for the three of us. Everyone was very nice to us on the boat and they do try to accomodate you. We missed our tour one day when we were in Cozemel and they were able to get us on the tour with another boat that was docked from another cruise line. So, we didn't really miss anything, just had a different time slot. I did not like Cozemel or Play de Carmen. I thought it was dirty and I felt uncomfortable when I seen officers walkingaround with big guns in Play de Carmen. We were not feeling well so we did no
This is our second cruise with Carnival and we found ourselves comparing the Sensation to the Destiny, which was the last Carnival Ship we sailed on. First of all there are way too many "out of control" kids on the Sensation - drunk teenagers and kids running up and down the halls screaming. The food was good, but not excellent like it was on the Destiny. I would have to say the same for the service and the entertainment. I was disappointed that I could not use cash to purchase pictures and items from the gift shop - you could on the Destiny. We tried to get in to see shows on the Sensation two different times and could not find a place to sit down. On the other hand it was never a problem trying to get a chaise lounge at the pool - more chairs than they had on the Destiny.
We were not impressed with the cocktail bars on the Sensation. The Destiny had that wonderful "Martini Bar" where we meet some really great people. I don't want to make it sound like it was a horrible cruise,because it wasn't. The Sensation is smaller and older than the Destiny and we felt just not as nice. The Sensation is a good value for the money if you are traveling with your family.
Good News! The Carnival Sensation lives up to its name. It is "sensational!" I am three days back from the latest trip out of Tampa, Florida and am already looking forward to another cruise!
This was my 12th cruise, but first on Carnival. I was skeptical because of Carnival's "party `til you puke" reputation. Don't worry! There are plenty of places to party, but plenty of places where you can relax in complete solitude.
Let's start with the dining experience. We ate at the main seating and found the food well-presented, plentiful and delicious. There was a different steak dish offered each night. I loaded up on the beef since I don't get it often at home. Only once did I have a "tough" cut of meat. I mentioned it to the waiter and he replaced it immediately! If you like shrimp cocktail, order a double portion as an appetizer. The staff doersn't mind bringing you extra! Save room for desserts. They are super!
We usually ate breakfast and lunch in the Seaview Bar & Grill. This is the buffet restaurant. The food was very good and we didn't have to change outof our bathing suits to eat! If you eat breakfast in the main dining room, beware. The portions of fruit, yogurt, potatoes and meats are small! Order double! They won't think you're a pig! They'll gladly bring it for you.
The children's menu is GREAT! My 8-year-old daughter loved it. Formal nights are not as formal as I've seen on other ships. Only about 15% of the men wore tuxedos.
ACTIVITIES: There are fewer "planned activities" on board Sensation than on other ships. I didn't mind that because I brought several books to read by the pool and got through all of them. The main pool is a bit on the small side and is filled with salt water instead of the fresh water I prefer. The slide is pretty cool!
BARS: We hung out in a couple of bars. "Touch of Class" is the piano bar. The piano player was only average, but very friendly and eager to let everyone join in singing. The stools around the piano are cramped and dificult to get in and out of. I am an average sized person and I had trouble. I can only imagine how tough it would be for an overweight person. The "Mirage" was right outside the casino -- and offered live music at night. It also had Heineken on tap, which helped deplete my wallet.
SHOWS: They're all pretty good. Nothing to rave about. . . but very entertaining and a great way to relax and let the food settle after a huge dinner. The juggler who appeared on the last night was fantastic and should NOT be missed.
PORTS: Grand Cayman is EXPENSIVE! Cozumel is a blast. We took the Jeep Adventure tour. It cost $85 a person and was well worth it! If you always wanted to go off-roading through the jungle like they do on the TV commercials, this is your trip! You will get muddy. They really mean it when they say this is an adventure tour. The beach BBQ afterwards was also superb! I highly recommend spending the big bucks for this tour! NEW ORLEANS was also very cool. I wish I had spent the whole day in the French Quarter, instead of taking a tour in the early part of the day.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I went on this cruise as a skeptic and came off a convert. Carnival offers an excellent product. My daughter had a blast. I had a blast! You will have a blast. Bon Voyage!
We went on a one week cruise on board the Carnival Sensation. Check in wasn't too much of a hassle, it took about 2 hours to get on board the ship, half of which was spent in the boarding area. Why so long to board? Because Carnival insists on taking your picture as you board, slowing everything way down. Carnival is constantly taking your picture, usually with people in stupid outfits, such as while you're eating and disembarking at Cozumel (slowing that down as well). Otherwise, the check in process went pretty smoothly.
THE BOAT and ROOM:
The ship itself is in excellent shape, and is very clean. The decor is rather glitzy - by which I mean gawdy - lots of colored lights and cheesy fabrics. Our stateroom was a decent size and had a nice big window. The paint was rather ugly but the room was comfortable and clean. They run fairly recent movies continuously on TV, which are free - this is pretty much it for TV, you may get 1 or 2 more channels.
The food in the main dining room is very good. We ate tonsof seafood which was all excellent. The menu is varied, including vegetarian and healthy selections. The food at the buffets, including the midnight buffets, is pretty lousy. It's about what you would expect at a Golden Corral. Some of the food was even leftovers from the midnight buffet. They usually have an item or two they prepare fresh which is listed on a yellow menu which is not easy to find. We had grilled shrimp and scallops one night which was great (this exact item was at the midnight buffet that night...hmmm). The pizzeria was decent, but not great. We ordered off the "gourmet" menu which is made fresh, otherwise it's slices under heat laps. I would highly recommend avoiding the buffets and eat in the main dining areas as much as possible.
It ain't cheap. A Corona cost me $4.31 (including the automatic 15% gratuity). A can of Bud Light was $3.74. They did give us a complimentary bottle of cheap champagne when we arrived. We snuck a bottle of Captain Morgan's and some Box-o-Wine on board without any problem. Coke was $2.88 for a 20 oz bottle. Wine at dinner isn't too bad, we paid $20.70 for a decent Reisling one night.
The shows were very good, though short. The costumes were very elaborate, and the female dancers and 2 singers were very good. I went to enough productions at OU to tell that the male dancers were terrible - we couldn't help but laugh at them. Fortunately they weren't given too much stage time. The cruise director and social hosts were amusing. We saw 3 comedians. 1 was lousy (I recognized 2 of his jokes I heard years ago), 1 was pretty good, and the other was f---ing hilarious! His name is Al Ernst. If you ever get an oppurtunity to see him, don't miss it!
It poured non-stop in Grand Cayman. Disembarkation was complete and utter chaos and took hours. This was the low point of the trip. Carnival couldn't do much worst of a job of getting people off the boat, let alone keep us informed of what was going on. We booked a snorkel tour of Stingray City and a coral reef through a company called Native Way (http://www.nativewaywatersports.com). They greeted us with a sign with my name on it (I felt special), but told us that due to the weather they suggested we not go. We didn't and weren't out any money. We appreciated they're decision to not go, as most of the people who went on Carnival's Stingray City tour said it was a miserable experience (because of the terrible weather - one of our table-mates caught a cold from it) and they were peeved at Carnival for not cancelling (they couldn't get a refund if they didn't go). The ship's tour also cost twice as much as Native Way. The weather was nice in Cozumel. We did the Fiesta Party boat which I would recommend. We easily drank the $39 fee in rum and Dos Equis at the open bar (about $390 worth if you go by Carnival's prices). They take you to Playa Sol beach - which is kinda lame - and back. The fun part is on the boat, which features a live band and amusing drunken party games. The duty free shop on the pier sells liters of booze for 3 for $24. We bought a bottle each of Parrot Bay, Myers, and Skyy (this is 2 over the customs limit, but the customs agent didn't care). We've been to New Orleans several times and just wandered around hitting the usual spots (Pat O'Brien's, Margaritaville, etc). We heard the city tour is pretty good.
This is Carnival's strong point. Just about everyone we dealt with was friendly and helpful. Our waiter spoke broken English, but was very good. I don't think our room steward ever disturbed us, yet the room was cleaned twice a day.
I've never heard so many Southern accents in my life - even in Alabama. The comedians picked on the south continuously (Mississippi makes for such easy material), so maybe this was some special Dixie get together we were unaware of. Most people seemd to be middle class working stiffs - like ourselves. There weren't too many kids on the boat, and most people seemed to range from teens to maybe late 40's.
This went really quick and easy, and took less than an hour, most of which was spent comfortably drinking coffee at a table on deck.
My biggest gripe about Carnival is they practically pick you up by the ankles to get every last penny out of your pocket. From the constant photos, to the expensive booze, to bingo and other games with terrible odds, to advertising they're reccomended (read: we get a nice kickback) shops, they want your money and aren't abashed about going after it. I know they have to make money, but it is very annoying. Overall, I wasn't disappointed, though I wasn't overly thrilled with Carnival either. I would not reccomend them for a special occasion such as a honeymoon or important anniversary (it is anything but romantic), but for a regular vacation they were all right.
This is a review of our experience on Carnival's Sensation, the week of May 12th to May 19th, 2002.
This was my sixth cruise, my second with Carnival. This was my wife's second cruise, and her first with Carnival. It was our daughters' first cruise. Although we are Celebrity Cruise Line fans, we chose Carnival because our two daughters(19 &20) were going, and we knew the age group and activities on Carnival would be more suited to them.
We have pictures posted of our cruise at:http://www.imagestation.com/album/?id=4291802827
SHIP: The ship was clean, neat, and wasn't as flashy and as purple as I thought it would be. The crew was constantly washing, painting, and scrubbing. Previous cruisers had made comments about stained carpeting, and I did see that in the passenger hallways, but it did not affect my cruise in any way. Several passengers made comments about some of the bulbs in the lounges being burned out, but I never really noticed it. That didn't bother me either. I was impressed on the overall appearance of the ship. Not all elevators went to all of the floors, so it took a while before weknew which elevators went where. The ship did rock a little more than I thought it would, especially sailing up the Mississippi River, but that was expected. I took Bonine and ginger tablets each day, and never once felt queasy. The ship was laid out rather well, I thought. The Lido deck by the pool was sheltered from the ocean breeze, so if you don't want to be hot, use the upper decks for sunning. It was hot that week, and the pools were usually crowded. Chairs were pretty easy to come by, as long as you didn't try to get one right by the pool. They were always taken or 'reserved'. I love smoking a good cigar now and then, so I appreciated the Polo Lounge, the only designated place indoors where I could enjoy my newly purchased Cuban cigars. There were some air filtering devices in the corners that seemed to do a pretty good job of filtering the air. I was never harassed for smoking my cigars there( I have been on other ships). It was nice that only your sign and sail card was needed to leave and return to the ship . Celebrity requires both their card AND a picture ID to leave and return to the ship, because they don't take your picture like Carnival does. The average age on the ship seemed to be about 30-35. Since most school systems were still in session, there weren't a lot of kids, at least I didn't SEE many kids. The Camp Carnival staff did an EXCELLENT job with the ones that I saw, and they had activities for them all over the ship. We never once saw any 'bratty' kids. They were all VERY well behaved. The teens on board had a lot of activities too, and our daughters met a LOT of other young adults their age.
ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment for the week was excellent. Entertainment, in my opinion, is better on Carnival ships than Celebrity. Carnival does a much better job in entertaining younger folk than Celebrity, but that is what I would expect. We had three or four comedians, and they were good. All of the shows were entertaining, and our cruise director was the Carnival veteran, Lenny Halliday. We thought he did a good job, too, and was very friendly and funny. Since we are partial to country music, we enjoyed the band SideWinder, with Dana Jordan. They performed most every night in the Plaza Lounge. The fiddle player, John Henry Gates was also very talented. He performed one night along with one of the comedians. There was music for every taste on board. Our girls lived in the disco each night. The Karaoke nights were dominated by the younger crowd, so my wife opted out of this activity. I wasn't very impressed with the band that was playing by the pool, but overall, we were very pleased with the musicians during the week. The piano players had a good variety of tunes. The dining room staff was pretty entertaining as well. I know some people think it is silly and is not proper etiquette for a formal dining area, but it is funny and entertaining to see all of the nationalities singing and dancing(yes, they did the Macarena and a conga line) in the dining room. Their singing of 'God Bless America' was very touching.
SERVICE: Our service from everyone on board was great! We gave our cabin steward, Felix, a phone card upon meeting him the first day, and he became the most visible cabin steward we had ever had. He also had his work cut out for him, in trying to clean our daughters' room next door. He rose to the task, however, and we let him know how good of a job he did at the end of the cruise. We ordered room service one morning, and it was brought to our cabin on time. The bartenders and wait staff were quite attentive, and we never had a problem getting what we wanted in a timely manner. We were impressed that our head waiter, Leo, and our Matr'd, Jo, visited our table each night. On some cruises, you don't see these guys except for the last night, so I had no problem giving them a tip the last night. Our waiter, Rohon, from India was great. His English skills weren't the best in the world, but we never had a problem communicating our needs. Several nights I ordered two appetizers, and he always waited for me to finish one before bringing the other. He asked if I wanted two lobster tails on lobster night, before I could ask him for two! Now, our ***'t waiter, Davor, from Croatia, impressed us the most. He learned our daughters' names the first night, and called them by name the rest of the cruise. We saw him all over the ship, and wondered when he slept. He was extremely polite, and was always quick to offer tips on getting about the ship and our ports of call. My wife cried the last night when he hugged her neck and kissed her on the cheek. Whatever Davor hopes to accomplish in life, he will be successful. He was an awesome ***'t waiter. He is getting married this summer. His wife is a lucky woman. I hope we get to see him again someday.
FOOD and BEVERAGES: The food was the only let down of our cruise. The food wasn't bad, it just wasn't what I was used to on my last Carnival cruise, and fell WAY short of the quality that I receive on Celebrity ships. The food was hot when it was supposed to be hot, and cold when it was supposed to be cold, I was just disappointed in the quality of it. Some dishes(not all) tasted like they had taken it out of the freezer and nuked it, then set it on your plate. We thought the food was Average, overall. Nothing to rave about. Food was abundant, and pizza was offered 24 hours a day at the pizza bar, and was quite tasty. I can't imagine anyone being hungry on the ship! The coffee was awful! My wife is a coffee addict, so she was the most disappointed. The coffee in the main dining room was a little better, but still fell short of vending machine coffee. We heard a lot of complaints about the coffee. I'm not a big coffee drinker, so it didn't bother me. I drank the juice. Speaking of juice, the fruit punch and lemonade onboard is the Minute Maid brand, and they were good. We took two Tupperware insulated mugs with us, and we filled them repeatedly for our many hours spent in the sun. The fruit punch mixes VERY well with Capt. Morgan's coconut flavored rum, which be brought aboard with us(packed in our checked luggage, and bubble wrapped). We also brought a few mini bottles of Peach Schnapps, and they mixed well with the lemonade. We like frozen drinks, so we purchased 32 drink coupons before the cruise, and they saved us about 50 cents on each drink, and we didn't have the hassle of having to show our S&S card every time we ordered one. The bar staff didn't seem to mind them either. The drinks were good and consistent from bar to bar.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS: Embarkation was simple and straightforward. We arrived at the terminal at 11:00, and we were given a group number, and we sat in the lobby until our number was called. The line moved quickly, and we were on the ship in no time at all. Disembarkation went smooth. We met in our designated lounge, and waited for our color to be called. All of our luggage was in the proper colored area, and we were back in our car, headed home by 10am. Photographers were plentiful, especially on the formal nights. Although the photo areas could get a bit crowded, the lines moved pretty fast. We had a lot of pictures taken and we bought $120 worth of pictures. We would have bought more, had most of the pictures been in the 5x7 size. Almost all of the formal pictures were produced in 8x10 size, and they would not make any 5x7 copies unless you purchased the one on display first, which was $19.95 for the 8x10. Videos of the cruise were taken each day, and offered at $35 per day, or they offered one video for $35 that included only the high lights of the week's cruise.
PORTS OF CALL: GRAND CAYMAN...I wish we had more time there, but I was told all ships are limited to six hours there. I was outnumbered by women 3 to 1, so we spent most of our time shopping, then returned to the ship. Prices were high, at least they seemed that way to us. COZUMEL...We were there from 8am to 10pm. After researching the beaches in Cozumel on this board, we opted out of any Carnival tours, and explored the island on our own. We took a taxi($7) to Dzul Ha. Dzul Ha was nice and quiet, and we spent four hours there sunning, snorkeling, and sipping Margaritas. We all agreed this was a superb spot for snorkeling. Fish were everywhere. The Fuji underwater cameras took nice pictures. We spent the early part of the afternoon shopping and we found prices to be very reasonable. We had attended the shopping talk about Cozumel the day before, so we knew where to get the free stuff( ear rings, charms, etc.) just by showing our S&S card. You can get really smashed just by sampling Tequila at all the shops along the shopping area. We ended our evening at Carlos and Charlie's. Everyone had a blast! If you decide to party there, make sure that one group member stays half way sober, so you can make it back to the ship on time.
OVERALL IMPRESSION OF CRUISE: We all agreed it was an awesome cruise, especially for our daughters. They haven't stopped talking about it. As always, we met some very fine people onboard. Would we cruise Carnival again? Probably so, but for now our next cruise is booked on Celebrity. The few problems or dislikes we encountered in no way affected our vacation. We relaxed and had a good time! No cruise is perfect, but I believe a cruise is what you make it. For those who have a cruise booked on the Sensation, you will have an enjoyable experience....John
Since I had gotten SOOO much helpful information from these online cruise reviews, I felt it was only fair that I write a review myself. I know it's long, but hopefully it will help some of you. What started out as a group of possibly up to 13 of us, due to different reasons, ended up being 2. My friend John and I (both 34) sailed on Carnival's Sensation out of Tampa on Sunday, April 28, 2002. This was my fourth cruise (second on Carnival) and John's first cruise.
Being locals, we had my parents drop us off at the Port of Tampa. We arrived at about 10:50am. The porter took our bags and we entered the terminal. There was no wait at all and we were checked-in in just a few minutes. We got our room keys and Sail & Sign card and had a seat to wait for boarding. The check-in line started to get really long at about 11:30. We were happy to be sitting while waiting rather than standing in line! Each person is assigned a boarding group number depending on when you checked in (they wentup to 20). They started boarding at 12:30 and we were on the ship at about 12:45.
ON THE SHIP:
We had read the reviews about the gaudy colors, stained and ripped carpeting, and overall how the ship needed an overhaul. I disagree. Yes, there were stains on some of the carpeting, yes, I may never look at the color purple the same way again, but none of that detracted from the overall experience! They wanted it to be "Las Vegas-ish" and they achieved that - showy, overdone, but "fun", (hence "the fun ships").
Our cabin was an outside cabin on the Main deck aft, port side, (M246). It was great having the window as the inside cabins are SO dark. Since it was John's first cruise, I had purchased the Bon Voyage cabin decoration (online at carnival.com- very simple!). The room had a mylar balloon, colorful streamers and balls, 2 Carnival keychains and a Bon Voyage cake. The cabin itself was plenty big, (larger then Royal Caribbean's). The beds were firm and comfortable and the closet & drawer space was more than enough! **HINT #1: Even if you don't purchase the Bon Voyage cabin decoration, go to the formalities shop (near the casino) and buy the white cake!! That cake was FANTASTIC!! A white cake with apple filling covered in a white chocolate fudge icing! WOW! by sitting it on the ice bucket, we were able to make it last for 3 days. Buying just the cake at the formalities shop is $15.00 and worth every penny of it! **HINT #2: Check the mattress. If it's the old brown one with springs, ask the cabin steward for a new blue one. My first night's sleep was uncomfortable until I asked for the new one, then it was great! (We saw tons of old brown stained ones in the dumpster at Tampa, which is how we knew the new from old)!
Grand Cayman - Tues. 8am-1pm (too short)
We took the Island Highlights Tour. A great 2 hour tour of the island which stopped at 7 Mile Beach, Hell, The Turtle Farm and The Tortuga Rum Factory, a VERY good tour! We skipped Stingray City since I had done it before & John isn't really an ocean person. We ended up with a later tour (9:45am) so we did our shopping first.
Cozumel - Wed. 7am-10pm (long enough)
We did the Mermaid Sub-Ocean Explorer Tour - a "submarine" that doesn't really submerge, you simply go below the waterline so that you can see the fish & coral. The tour was 1 1/2 hours and was very cramped! Anyone with claustrophobia (and one sat 2 seats away from me), would NOT like this tour! We didn't really care for it because of how cramped it was. We also seemed to be on the wrong side for everything! The other side saw barracudas & stingrays. We saw what looked like the moon (baron landscape). Even when they turned the sub around to let us see, it was always too late to see what the other side was ooing and ahing about.
After the tour we took a cab downtown to shop ($6US each way for up to 4 people in the cab). Not fun!! Very narrow sidewalks crowded with store employees badgering you to "come in amigo!!". Yes, the women got stares, whistles and rude comments. Ladies, go with guys if possible! We got a few souvenirs and went back to the ship for lunch. At 2:15, with still over 7 hours to go, we took a cab to Chakkanab park, ($10US each way for up to 4 people in the cab and then $10 each to enter the park). Although the botanical gardens were very nice to see, we have the same foliage here in Florida...no big deal). The ocean and lagoon were beautiful, but for non-ocean people, it was just another nice sight. We spent about an hour and took a cab back to the pier.
Back at the pier, we did our shopping. I hate to barter with people, but I tried because that's what everyone says you do. The price was $10. I offered $8. They said $10. I offered $9. They said $10. I said never mind and walked away. They didn't chase after me like they were supposed to. I went to the next store and paid $10. So much for bartering!! Maybe the terrific deals were in the "bazaars" behind the "recommended" stores, but I'd rather pay the full price than find the deals.
New Orleans - Fri. 9am or 12pm-10pm (ended up as 6pm-12am)
Well, unfortunately, all tours were cancelled! We were supposed to arrive at either 9am or 12pm (some confusion about that even among the crew), but it didn't really matter in the end. Due to 2 medical emergencies, we had to divert into US waters so that the US Coast Guard could airlift the passengers off of the back deck by basket. (From what cruise director Mark Lyons said, the two patients had to have surgery, but would survive thanks to the course change). So we were finally allowed off the ship at 6pm! Although bumbed about the tours being cancelled, we couldn't be upset, since lives were at risk. We just walked to Bourbon Street and the area - yes it's dirty, smelly & not for kids, but interesting to see nonetheless.
Not excellent, but very good. There was almost always a good selection on the menus. The portions weren't huge, but certainly enough...and several nights I ordered two! Despite the video's claims about themed dinners, they weren't. If they were, you had to guess, because unlike on other cruise lines, there was no "Italian Night" or "French Night", etc. Some desserts reminded me of diner desserts...they look really good, but lack taste sometimes. The souffle desserts were fantastic, one or two other desserts were bland, the rest were very good. Yes, the 24-Hour pizza was terrific! The hamburgers were great! HINT #3: The best value on that ship (for us non-drinkers) was the Adult Fountain Card!! We averaged 4 a day each and at $2.50 each, we saved A LOT of money!! Even if you just get 2 a day, it's worth it! They DO promote the card, just not much - it's in the Carnival Capers & there are signs around. (The 15% tip is automatically included when you buy the card, not on each drink, so at the end of the cruise we tipped the 2 drink waiters who remembered us all week long - it's only fair!)
I can see where many reviews conflict on this subject. Yes, there was always SOMETHING to do, but no, there wasn't always something worth doing. The last day at sea (despite other reviews) was the most jam-packed day. Before we knew it, it was time for dinner! If each day was like that, I would have been MUCH happier. There were many hours throughout the week where we ended up in the cabin watching a movie or simply wandered the ship because there was nothing that interested us. I wish they had planned just a bit more. The activities throughout the week included: Survivor At Sea, Blackjack & Slots Tournaments, Trivia Game Shows, Bingo, Horseracing (only twice), Newlywed Game, Art Auctions, Virtual Reality games, Pool Games, Scratch Off Lotto (then drawing losing tickets for prizes), Dance Classes, etc.
We both burn way to easily to sit by the pool, but the always crowded pool area seemed to have chairs available here & there. Get there early!
Fantastic! Sensational! I didn't have one complaint! Our cabin steward Antonio kept the cabin spotless & fun (with a new towel animal each day). Out waiter & assistant waiter were friendly and quick (whenever I get a meal now, I'll be hearing Robert saying, "Enjoy your dee-ner"). The Cruise Director, Mark "Skippy" Lyons and the Social Host, (I think that was his title), Jose, were terrific. They worked very well together!! The ONLY complaint I heard was from our table-mates Bonnie & Gloria, who got several "shame on you" lectures from their cabin steward..not what you want on a cruise!
All of us at our table enjoyed both Vegas-style shows. They had several comedians throughout who were hit & miss, a magician...(no comment), and the Passenger Talent Show. So few passengers signed up (3), that one of the comedians was asked to fill in. We missed the Beatlemania show and the R rated shows, but heard that they were very good. The poolside entertainment sounded good when we passed by as well.
Not bad at all! We got into Tampa before sunrise. At 8:45 we were supposed to be in out area (your luggage tag color denotes where you wait). At about 9:50ish, they started allowing people to debark. Two colors at a time were called at about 10 minute intervals. We were in the last group (pink - Lido deck). The line to get off wasn't bad. Once in the luggage warehouse, a porter took our carry-ons and our bags as we found them. We went outside where we met the friend who picked us up. The porter took the bags across the street into the garage and loaded the bags into the trunk! Now that's service! We were in the car about an hour after debarkation started. Not bad!!
- Forget a nightlight. The outlet in the bathroom goes off with the light, so it can't be used in there anyway. Besides, the light from under the cabin door was sufficient to get to the bathroom. - Bring an extension cord, because there is only 1 outlet in the cabin itself.
- Don't buy seasick pills (Bonine) ahead of time. Save the money and ask the cabin steward for them when you get on board. They're free.
- Unless you really want to sit there, skip the shore excursion talk and watch it on tv later in your cabin. Also, if possible, pick out your tours ahead of time (descriptions without prices are available at carnival.com). If you want a copy of the price list, email me).
- Don't skip any chance for the photographers to take your picture! Go to every background. We had so many where we had awful looks on our faces, that by sheer number, we were able to get some really good ones!
- Bring an alarm clock! The automated phone wake-up service didn't always work properly, (too early, too late, not at all).
- Play the free cruise bingo! For $20 you have a chance at a 3, 4, 5 or 7 day cruise on the ship of your choice in a SUITE! I wish I could say that I won, but I didn't. Still worth a shot though!
- The play-time on the nickel machines in the casino lasted so much longer than the quarter machines. I enjoyed them and ended up winning on them overall! The games themselves were more fun I thought.
- Wait until the end of the cruise to buy stuff in the ship's stores. They put a lot of items on sale in the last few days, (same with the massages and salon items).
- If something is wrong on the ship, fill out a "Carnival Cares" card ASAP! It's the only way they can know about a problem. Our TV's color was WAY off (blacks & greens only). I filled out a card & the next day it was fixed (and we received a bottle of champagne as an apology).
- Pay cash whenever possible instead of using that Sail & Sign card...keep that after-cruise cost down as much as you can!
- Email: There is internet access available 24 hrs. a day. The cost is 75¢ per minute. If you don't have email access, they'll set up an address for $9.95. What they don't mention until you're there is that regardless, it costs $3.95 just to start using their computers the first time. Wait for their special "first 5 minutes free" promotion early in the week. Then you're basically cancelling out that $3.95 charge.
- Read over the Carnival Capers the night before. Highlight what you plan to do in advance. Make a plan so that you don't miss out on something you want to do!
- Get what you paid for!! We paid for a cat. 4A cabin with a 2 cat. upgrade. About 2 months later, I checked an online travel site. Suddenly the category we paid for was $300 less! Carnival was running a lower rate promotion. I questioned the travel agent who called Carnival telling them that we got punished for booking early. They gave in and upgraded us to a cat. 6B (which is what, in the end, we actually paid for). Keep on top of the prices!!
In all, I had a very good time...not excellent or sensational, but very good. Maybe 3 1/2 - 4 stars out of 5. Room for improvement, but none of those things ruined the experience at all. We made some great friends and have already had dinner with them after the cruise! We're both looking forward to cruising again soon...we'll just try another cruise line & itinerary next time.
Feel free to email me with any questions you may have!
I compiled a checklist that we used to help us both, much of which came from these reviews. Here's some of the items I might not have thought of before reading them...
_Downy Wrinkle Releaser _Shout Wipes _Alarm Clock _Batteries _Ear plugs _Napsack _Candy / Snacks / Gum _Safety Pins / Sewing Kit _Extension Cord / Power Strip _Phone Calling Card _Crossword Puzzle Book _Card Games _Addresses / Email Addresses _Highlighter Pen _Travel Mug _Travel Iron/Steamer _Ziplock Bags _Hangers!!!! _Rain Poncho _Extra Luggage _Lysol / Air Freshener _Blank Check
Flight and Embarkment:
Arrived in Tampa around 11:45. We had purchased the transfers from Carnival and they had personnel waiting right by the luggage area. The buses were very nice and took us straight to the ship. I liked this because it is already paid for and one less thing you have to worry about. It took about 2 hrs to get through the entire process of getting your sail and sign, room keys and picture taken. Not Bad and they were pretty organized. We had all of our luggage by 03:15 ( Wonderful!!) They had a lunch buffet set up at the Seaview for everyone. The Muster Life Boat Drill was at 04:00 and last about an hr. It was hot and miserable but a necessity. I had ordered the Bon Voyage anniversary package. There was champagne on ice waiting when we got to our cabin and nice gifts (t-shirts,visors, drink coupons, $15 towards pictures, champagne glasses and a camera). My husband was really surprised and loved it! Nice touch and worth every penny!
We were on the Upper deck room U224. This was the very last room on the side(aftoceanview). There was quite a bit of movement and It rocked me to sleep everynight! Our only complaint for the entire trip was they were working onthe outside of the Seaview bar above the childrens wading pool and woke us up drilling,sanding and scraping 2 separate mornings. Not nice after a late night!! Our cabin was nice sized and the showers were always hot with alot of pressure. Our steward was Kanikorn (really). He was kind of like thewind. We didn't see him much but you could always tell he had been there. Nice towel animals, mints on the pillows and alway plenty of towels.
Dining room and THE FOOD!!
We ate in the dining room everynight. We had the late seating and ended up getting a booth for 4 with the other couple we were cruising with. Our waiter was Surya from Indonesia and asst. waiter Stefan from Romania. They were both wonderful and made a great team. By the end of the week they knew exactly what you liked to drink, which bread and dressing everything! Everything we had to eat was fantastic. My husband tried everything new he could escargot, duck, lamb chops and he loved them all. My personal favorite was the West India Pumpkin soup (awesome!!) There were a couple of nights he couldnt make up his mind so Surya brought him two separate entrees. We really felt special at dinner. The formal nights were alot of fun. There were a lot of beautiful dresses and gowns. I wore a nice cocktail dress for both and my husband wore a nice suit and felt comfortable. Anyone who cruises show take full advantage of eating in the dining room. It feels great to get dressed up, have great service and wonderful food. This was definitely a hightlight of everyday! We only ate breakfast in the dining room a couple of mornings. We decided the food was about the same at the seaview and you didnt have to wait. We ate lunch mostly at the Seaview also. It was nice to have the choice, they always served burgers and fries on the pool side and inside they have a different menu daily. Nice variety! We also took advantage of the pizzeria and ate lunch and a couple of LATE night snacks there. Their caesar salad and pizza was great. My husband liked the anchovie pizza alot!! We also called room service a couple nights around 4am. This was AWESOME!! Everyone should take full advantage of this also. We had coffee delivered every morning nice touch! Overall the food for the entire cruise was great. We didnt get to participate in the lat night buffets very much because we were still full from dinner but made up for it in the middle of the night!!
We saw both R rated comedians, Thomas Brown and Tim Harkleroad. They were both very funny!! We caught the Sensation dancers in the Fantasia lounge on the 2nd formal night. This was a great show, very entertaining! We really liked the piano bar with Mike Stone. He could play and sing just about everything you requested and if he didnt know it, he knew something close. This is a neat little bar and he makes you feel like part of the show! This is a neat little bar and he makes you feel like part of the show! We stopped in the disco one night, a little too much bumping and grinding and hip-hop for my husband but it was usually packed late at night. We went to see TGIF two nights in the Michaelangelo lounge. They were great. I was even on the stage singing "Mustang Sally" LOTS OF FUN!! We also enjoyed Music Unlimited. They played in the Plaza lounge several nights. They played a good variety of music. We also played bingo a few times (no luck) and paid a few salaries in the casino. There was always something going on if you wanted to join! Don't miss the galley tour. They only have one the whole cruise and it was very interesting. After the tour, they have several demonstrations on Sensation Blvd.: napkin folding, towel animals, food carving and cake decorating. They also sell a set of their cookbooks for $25. We bought ours from our waiter Surya and he had it signed by the all of our dining room staff including the chef!
They were about 1/2 half late letting us get off the ship and you have to tender to the island. (Lots of waiting to get off and back on, bummer!) We signed up for the Stingray sandbar tour. This was wonderful. make sure you buy your underwater camera at home for around $10, they were selling them on the tour for $20. There were lots of other boats but plenty of room for you to enjoy them and take lots of pictures. They sell a cup of dead squid for $4 and you can feed them. Definitely do this, it was a once in a lifetime experience. There wasnt much time to do anything else on the island because you havd to be back on the ship by 12:30. We did send our postcards at the post office here and we beat them home by about a week!
This was definitely our favorite port! We started off with the Fury catamaran sail and snorkel!! Wonderful Time!!!! Worth every penny! They pick you up right at the pier and take you to a reef about 20 mins away. On the way, they explain exactly how to snorkel and set you up with masks, snorkel and fins. The reef is about 25 ft deep (you have to wear a small life jacket) and you snorkel for about 45 mins. We saw lots of fish and coral. Then you board the boat and they start the margaritas and beer flowing. They take you to a nice private beach with kayaks, floats, hammocks and volleyball, There is open bar while youre there and they are selling burgers. This was a blast and the beach was absolutely beautiful. The tour last about 3 hrs and was the highlight of our entire trip! Highly reccommend!! There are bathrooms on the boat and there were also kids having a great time. We went back to the ship and changed and ate at the seaview and headed back out. We shopped right by the pier (not too pushy) and I got my hair braided $2 a braid. We them grabbed a taxi $6 one way to Carlos and Charlies. This was a blast!! We were dancing on the stage and drinking yards of margaritas. I could have stayed there all night!! But we had to be back by 5:30. That night they had a party on the Lido deck and a Mexican buffet! FUN FUN
We didnt sign up for a tour but opted to do our own thing. I found the Cajun Cooking Cooking school on the internet that has a cooking class from 10 to 12 for $15 a person ($5 off coupon on line) that was located right in the mall. We did this which included your lunch. It was great! After the class she gave you 10% at the store. Then we walked up to the French Quarter and Jackson Square (lots to see!) We ate appetizers at Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville (very good) and then walked to Bourbon Street to get our beads and boas for the party on the ship. The partys were just beginning. We stopped at the Acme Oyster house and my husband sucked down a dozen (he loved 'em). We had to be back on the ship by 6. They had a Mardi Gras Party in the Plaza lounge with a costume contest. This was alot of fun and they made the finalist lip sync. TOO funny!! Also a cajun buffet at midnight! Overall we had a wonderful time, the itenerary was great, the service wonderful, and like they say a cruise is what you make of it and we were determined to have a GREAT TIME and we did!!!!
Before I start, I should tell you a little bit about us. I went on this cruise with my best friend. I'm 22 and a senior in college and she is 21 and works full-time. Neither of us had cruised before and we chose this date and itinerary because it worked with my spring break and the price was right. The whole package for our airfare from Milwaukee to Tampa and the entire cruise was about 900 per person, so for us that sealed it with us. My perspective will concentrate on the first-time young cruiser. I thought I would write because I got so much great and helpful information from all of you!
We started on Saturday night where we stayed at the Four Points Sheraton hotel in Milwaukee. It was a great deal - $100 for the room, which included a $20 gift certificate for dinner and then we were also allowed to keep our car there for free while we were gone. The shuttle service was great - they got us there and picked us up with no problems. I would highly recommend this hotel for this purpose.
Ourflight to Tampa left from Milwaukee at 5:50 in the morning, so we were up and gone quite early. When we got to the airport, it was quite chaotic. There were several other early morning flights at about the same time and the lines to check-in were long and very unorganized. After not moving for about 45 minutes, there finally came some direction from some of the Northwest employees and things were smooth sailing after that. We had a stopover in Detroit and there were no problems. Once we got off the plane in Tampa, there were Carnival personnel waiting for us right by the luggage collection area. We got our bags and went straight to the waiting buses that took us to the port.
Embarkation took awhile, but I was expecting it. We didn't get through all of the lines and security and walk onto the ship until 3:30 in the afternoon. I was hoping it wouldn't take quite so long, but there wasn't anything that could be done. We went to our room right away, dropped off our carry-on luggage and made it straight to the lido deck for food. They had hamburgers and hot dogs and the like available. Truthfully, I wasn't too impressed with it and didn't really use that Seaview lounge much after that.
We then had our muster drill at about 4:00. It only took about 45 minutes, which was long enough for me. I know it's important, but by that time I had already been up for 12 hours and I was hot and sticky and was looking forward to a shower and some clean clothes. By the time we got back from eating and the muster drill, all of our baggage was outside our cabin door.
Dinner: All I can say is WOW! Everything about it was just wonderful. Our waiter and asst. waiter were so great and friendly. Plus, the people that we were placed with were great too - six other spring breakers from two different colleges. We ended up hanging out together quite a bit. It was really considerate of Carnival to try to place similar people together.
Formal Nights: They were my favorite dinners of the cruise. On the night of the first formal night there is also the Captain's cocktail party which should not be missed. Besides the free drinks and appetizers, the cruise director introduces the captain and his whole staff, which is neat. Also, it was fun to see all of the couples dancing on stage.
Food: It was so great. As a college kid, I'm used to macaroni and cheese and frozen pizzas, so to have quail, lobster, filet mignon, fresh breads and wonderful desserts every night was a major treat. My favorite foods were the chicken tortilla appetizer, the filet mignon and the desserts. We had chocolate and vanilla souffles, cherry jubilee and then of course, the ice cream. I had strawberry ice cream everyday at lunch AND dinner. After the first few days, the waiter knew to just bring it to me along with whatever other dessert I wanted. Yes, I managed to gain a few pounds, but I figure I have the rest of my life to spend on the cross-trainer!
Drinks: Well, I bought the soda card for 30 bucks and I am really glad I did. All of the drinks are so expensive and I think it ended up saving me some money. Sometimes I would just get a free soda instead of ordering a mixed drink just because they were so much. Margaritas were $5.50 and the featured drink of the day was always $6.25, but you do get to keep the (cheap plastic) glass. I know that some people bought the bucket of beer, which I guess is the best deal on the ship, for those that are interested. Also, 4 of the nights, we had a bottle of wine with dinner, which was great. I don't know so much about wine and our waiter was really helpful with suggestions. We got bottle that usually were about 25 bucks and they were more than tasty for us. Sometimes we had some left over and they would keep it for you for the next night, which is really cool.
Photos: My best friend and I had a lot taken. Some turned out really cool and others didn't, but since we weren't under any obligation to buy them, we just picked out the best ones. They are pricey though, so be warned. Also, I thought one of the best deals on the ship was the film developing. It was $8.88 for double prints and that included a little Carnival photo album. Plus, the turnaround on the film was always less than 24 hours. I thought it was pretty convenient and also not too expensive. They develop underwater cameras and 35mm film, but do not do Advantix/APS film.
Our Room: We were on the Riveria deck, room R124. It was more than fine for us. It did have a window, two twin beds and a decent sized closet and bathroom. It was better than my freshman dorm room, so I'm not complaining. I would recommend some sort of window, whether it is a regular one or a porthole. The rest of my dinner mates didn't have a window and they said it was hard to know what time it was or wake up in the morning because it was always so dark.
Grand Cayman: At this port we decided that we would swim with stingrays at Stingray City. It was really awesome! We ordered the tour through Carnival and we had no complaints. The people that ran the tour were more than nice and it was a really neat thing that I wouldn't ever have the opportunity to do otherwise. Besides the tour, we did a little bit of shopping: some Tortuga rum and rum cakes. You don't actually get that much time on the island - I believe you could start taking the tenders at 8:00 am and we left port at 12:30, so the tour and some shopping were all that we had time for.
Cozumel: When we were here, I was pretty sick, so I didn't do much at all. I had been suffering from a cold all week and Wednesday when we were in Mexico, I felt the worse. My friend, however, did the catamaran snorkel tour and thought it was excellent. I had already purchased my ticket and when I asked if I could get a refund, they were really nice about it - I only lost 25% of the tour price. They take you out on this boat where you can snorkel for awhile with the fish and then they bring you over to a beach where they serve you food and rum punch and margaritas and you get to hang out. The whole tour was about three hours and she had a great time. Afterward, she came back to the port and we had some food in our room and then I ventured out with her. We stuck close to the port and did a little bit of shopping and that was really all I was up for. I found a Mexican blanket for $5 (he wouldn't budge on the price, even though at the cruise talk they said I could most likely get three blankets for $11). The coolest thing I found though was an onyx chess set. It was black and white and the playing pieces looked like they were hand cut. I bought a mini-sized one and it was $10 and the large ones were $20. The two girls at my table went on the Tulum tour and absolutely LOVED it. The guys at my table took a taxi and went downtown and out to the beach and they said it was really nice too.
New Orleans: This was my favorite port of the trip. In the morning we took a city tour bus arranged through Carnival. It was ok - some parts were interesting, but the things that they decided to point out were strange to me: public schools and the state facility for free dental appointments? We made one stop where we got off the bus and looked at above ground cemeteries and another a few minutes later for a bathroom/snack break. They also showed us the superdome and a lot of the old town ports. My friends at our table did the walking tour of the French Quarter and raved about it. I was glad that I took the city bus tour, but if I had to do it again, I think I would have preferred to just do the French Quarter tour or explored on my own. After the tour, we took the trolley down to the French Quarter and walked our way back through the shops and into the RiverWalk mall. The weather was chilly - I had pants on and would have preferred a sweatshirt too. The bus driver remarked that it isn't even that cold at Christmas, so that was unusual. I had never been to Louisiana and I was pleasantly surprised and I would even like to go back again someday.
On board activities: I didn't participate in any of the games, but I watched a few and they were really funny! The newlywed/married games was the funniest thing of the week: The oldest couple was married for 63 years and they were so precious - one of the questions was rate your first kiss and the wife gave it a negative one! I also went to both shows, however I do not know why. I actually love musicals/dancing/theatre and I thought the Mambo show and the other one were both tacky as anything and actually embarrassing to the people who were in them. Diane LaSalla has a nice a voice, but when they have her dress up as Mrs. Claus and sing "Santa Baby" with a HORRIBLE New York accent, it takes away from her talent. They were only 45 minutes and I have no desire to ever see any of those shows again. My friend did see one of the midnight comedians and said it was ok and funny.
Spa: I just loved it. Again, I'm used to the poor college student life, so this was a major treat for me. I had the "cruise combo" which is a half hour back massage and then a half hour facial and it was wonderful. I had it done the day we were in Grand Cayman, so it was a little bit cheaper than an 'at sea day' would be. I also ended up buying one product, the tea tree oil spray, which I actually like a lot.
Well, I think that about sums up my cruise. I had a lovely time and I think I would cruise again. If anyone has any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope this helps! THE END