October 2014 - Carnival Sensation to Caribbean - Bahamas
I have not been on a cruise in 25 years, and this was the first with my family (wife and three children aged 17, 13, 11). Things I loved about the cruise were the ports (Freeport and Nassau Bahamas), the friendliness of the staff, never being bored, and once the cruise started I actually felt like I was on vacation. The ports were beautiful, fun, the beaches we went to and the ocean was beyond belief. The time I spent with my family experiencing all of this was beyond worth.
The neutral: the food seemed a bit more bland then I remembered it being and it seemed to me that carnival food quality has been sacrificed for quantity. You will have the opportunity to eat a "LOT" from the dinning room to the breakfast and lunch buffets but nothing I ate really seemed to stand out.
There were a lot of very drunk younger men who were very obnoxious and rude to the staff. I found myself getting up and leaving an area of the ship more then once to get away from such groups. I have nothing against people having a good time or getting their "drink" on, but I was on this trip with my family and wanted a family orientated experience.
I smoke (I know, boo hiss) and carnival has instituted a no smoking policy in not only rooms but also balconies. The reason stated made sense to me, to lower the risk of fires by a misplaced cigarette being tossed off the balcony and falling back into the ship and landing on another balcony or place where flammable material may be. I had no problem following the ship rules and only smoked in the designated areas (a part of the casino and at one poolside bar. I wish they had chosen a more open area away from the pool and non-smokers, also at any given time during daylight hours there seemed to be about 30-50 smokers on deck with no where near enough tables/seats and only 8-12 ashtrays for all to share. I do not enjoy smoking around children/teens and wish they had a more distant area from the pool for me to smoke in comfortably.
I mentioned how beautiful the ports were and they were but the local cab drivers, tourist shop employees, and street peddlers can be very pushy and I thought I was going to get into an altercation with one in Freeport that refused to take no for an answer and he almost grabbed my arm from behind. I have mild ptsd and constantly feel like I have to keep it in check and a surprise grabbing of my arms, shoulders etc never ends well.
My final observation was that The prices Carnival charges for excursions would have priced my family out of a vacation but we were able to go out on our own and saved huge. Example one we went snorkeling at Paradise cove and it cost us $80 for a family of 5 for the cab/shuttle to the beach and back, and since we brought our own snorkeling gear the only other thing we had to pay was $3 each for beach access. With a $20 tip thrown into for the driver it cost me and my family $115 total for 4 hours of snorkeling minus drinks and food I bought, Carnival wanted $75 each to take you to the same beach (they did cover cost of beach access and snorkeling gear) but still that would have been $375. Example #2 In Nassau Carnival wanted $55 each to take you on a small tour of downtown, then a visit to the pirate museum and they leave you to find your own way back to the ship. So for my family $275. We walked from the ship the grand total of approximately 3 or 4 blocks, paid $42 for the whole family to enter museum and used the extra money we saved for souvenirs . Example #3 at the same port they offer many packages to various private/semi private beaches for a premium cost. We walked from the ship to Junkanoo beach in about 15 minutes and swam for free in a beautiful setting with clear water and could still see our ship. I paid $10 so my wife could have a beach chair. Carnival does offer a 110% offer if you find a cheaper price for excursions they offer but seemed like a lot of work so we just went off and had fun on our terms and saved a lot of money.
And finally the bad: I actually could not find anything "Bad" about this cruise, some things I was neutral with as stated above but nothing that left me saying "we will never take this cruise again" as a matter of fact we are in the process of booking the exact same cruise for next year.