Hi to everyone thinking about booking a cruise on the Carnival Sensation! Well, my family recently got back from our first family vacation AND it just so happened to be a cruise! My review is simple...The ship's staterooms are well maintained by housekeeping! The beds were pretty comfy (a little firmer than I am used to, but still pretty good). Our room steward, Rikey, was absolutely wonderful to us and very kind. He genuinely appeared happy to be of service to my family. Thank you, Rikey! We stayed on the Main deck, in the middle of the ship...Best decision we could have made! There was a couple moments that the ship was in rocky waters and being in mid-ship made those times in our room quite tolerable. There were NO moments of sea sickness aboard, except some nausea to my hubby (we had prepared everyone with Sea-Bands...you can get these at any store that has a pharmacy or health aid section for anti-nausea).
On a whole, the ship needs a space overhaul...The ship's condition is actually very good, but the quantity of people versus the outdoor space (specifically the pool/hot tub area) is poor. They are probably hoping that too many people on the Lido Deck would cause them to come inside to go to the casino, but that is a shot in the dark theory. Since my family doesn't gamble, that was not an option...eating at the buffet was the only other option. ;-)
So, the food was pretty good...nothing that made my mouth melt with wondrous tasting food. We did not purchase the Soda Card that Carnival charges at an additional fee...I thought it better that my family could lay off the pop for a few days! They do have unlimited water that is actually sea water somewhat filtered, but biologically safe to drink and still has an ocean water after-taste (that can be minimized if you put lemon wedges/juice in the water). They also have unlimited coffee, unsweetened tea and lemonade all day long. In the morning, they have orange juice, apple juice and an other fruit juice mixture along with the coffee and other 2 drinks. The desserts were decadent looking, but lacked flavor. The only dessert, in the general buffet on the Lido Deck, that tasted really good was the cheesecake! The Melted Chocolate Cake that you may be reading about is the most flavorful and tastes soooo good! It's rich, it's chocolatey and is served with vanilla ice cream (this is real ice cream, not frozen soft serve/iced milk like in the general buffet)! Unfortunately, this dessert is only offered when you dine in the dining room and not at the general buffet on the Lido Deck and it doesn't appear to be unlimited unless maybe you can ask for seconds (the portions of this dessert are kind of small). Oh! I almost forgot about the best buffet food they offered on the ship! it was after we departed from Freeport...they offered a Caribbean spread, including Jerk Chicken! Oh my gosh, it was so good! I had never had "jerk" anything, but it was most similar to a barbeque type sauce, except it was much tastier!!
Since this was our first cruise, I can't compare any other 4 day cruises and how long is a good time to be allowed on the islands that the ship ports at (Freeport and Nassau). Our stop time was from 10 AM-5 PM, we departed timely at 5 PM. This is not Carnival's fault (at least not that I think it is, unless they get some of the profit), but the excursions contracted through the island businesses were not financially friendly. I was disappointed, because I really wanted to go snorkeling to see any kind of natural and native wildlife (we did not see any marine life in the ocean to and from any destination). However, at the Ports, there are innumerable street vendors happy to have you pay for their cab services. They even wear pictures of the places that they will drive you to and pick you up from. The beach we chose at Freeport was Taino Beach, the other one was not as family equipped (meaning Taino Beach had port-a-potty's). I have never paid cab fare for something like that, but $7 per person one way (we had 6 in my family) seemed somewhat reasonable. To not see any wildlife or snorkel or eat offshore or any souvenirs, we paid $90 (included tip) for a roundtrip taxi ride to one beach about 15-20 minutes away from the port. Unfortunately,we could not do much walking/sightseeing at Nassau, because my son tripped and sprained his knee the night before we ported at Nassau. I was kinda bummed that we couldn't afford to do a real excursion, but thankful that we at least got an opportunity to swim in some crystal teal blue waters at one island! Beware: you have to pay extra for chairs and umbrellas! We couldn't pay extra for these amenities, which was okay if you weren't planning on being in full sun for more than 2 hours (in my opinion). DO NOT FORGET THE SUNSCREEN!! Get at least 50 SPF, even if you're already tan. Get a quality waterproof/sweatproof sunscreen. CVS brand was not good. Walgreens brand was excellent! Apply it before you get wet and wait until it's "dry" on your skin before you get in the water (on and off the ship). Please do this in Florida too, if you don't want to get burned before your cruise.
Some final tips: Stay at least one night in Florida before you embark onto your ship! That way you can enjoy some time to rest after your travels before you to get to the Port, depending on how far you live from the Port. As for my family, we stayed one night at Four Points at Sheraton in Cocoa Beach (fantastic!), which was also a very short walk to the Atlantic Ocean. We traveled VERY early the day before the cruise to Midway in Chicago (highly recommend Southwest Airlines!), flew to Orlando and arrived to Cocoa Beach by a shuttle (pre-arranged and paid through the hotel mentioned before, PLUS much more reasonable than the shuttle service provided by Carnival) forty minutes after we left the airport. We had a few hours to play at the beach and do a little walking near the hotel. We walked to an IHOP for lunch after the beach (we spent about $80, included tip). Be prepared to spend a bit for each meal outside the ship's buffet. Dinner was McDonald's and was still pricey for fast food. In the morning, the day of our cruise, the attached restaurant in the hotel had an amazing breakfast buffet for $7.95/person (not including drinks).