Just got back from the Sensation (4/18, 5 nt. Calica/Cozumel trip) and I had a wonderful trip!! It was the first cruise for me and my boyfriend and we loved it. I had read many reviews here and was apprehensive about this ship, but I really think cruising is what you make it. We had a great time. This review is sooooooooo long, but I wanted to put it all out there:
New Orleans -
Through Priceline we got some great deals. We stayed at the Renaissance Pere Marquette pre-cruise and the Fairmont New Orleans post-cruise. Both were about a block from Canal St., and very very close to Bourbon St./French Quarter. The Fairmont is beautiful! I loved both hotels but loved the Fairmont the best!
We had a blast! We went for po'boys at Acme Oyster House that were delicious and walked around Bourbon Street. We wound up going to bed very early which was a great thing, because we were up Monday AM, walking around, by 8. We went to Mother's and had breakfast - I highly recommend this place. The biscuits alone make it worthwhile, and it's inexpensive. We then walked around the French Quarter and made our way to Cafe du Monde, which definitely is a must-see. And I loved the iced cafe au lait and beignets too.
We came back to N.O. 4/23 and headed to Jazzfest. I am definitely going back to that again. It was incredible. Absolutely wonderful and the food!! I had crawfish bread, alligator pie, fried green tomatoes . . . . it was out of this world. What a great time! After Jazzfest we went to get our hurricanes at Pat O'Briens, and though it was crowded, I thought the courtyard was really cool. We had so much fun, and ran into some friends we'd made on the cruise!
If you leave out of New Orleans, plan on taking some time to see the city. It really is incredible, and I'm planning to visit there soon, so we can see some more of it.
Painless. We arrived between 12:30 and 1:00 pm. The lines moved quickly and I never felt we waited a long time. When we disembarked Saturday, I saw a HUGE line of people waiting to embark @ 9:30 am.
Onboard, the buffet was crowded and we were overwhelmed so we didn't eat much. Well, we found our way to our room and ordered room service - 2 BLT's! They were great.
Our luggage arrived around 5 pm. I suggest packing your carry-on with a bathing suit, toothbrush, whatever you need to feel comfortable until after dinner, because there was a notice that said luggage would be delivered up until 9 pm.
Our room -
We stayed in M258. I'd read about this very room on the boards as being not-so-desirable. Well, I was worried sick but it turned out fine! It was definitely noisy rolling into port in the mornings but I didn't really mind, I was able to fall back asleep. I felt some motion but I think it actually helped me sleep. I thought the room was big. I imagined we'd have a teeny little room but it was great. I loved how we could fit on the windowsill. I will always get an oceanview or better room, I think, I really enjoyed the natural light and being able to look out our window. The bathroom was great too. I have a tiny shower in my apartment and this one was bigger than that, so I was happy.
We had Paul as a room steward. He was great and we got towel animals most evenings. He kept the ice fresh and he or his assistant were always easy to find in case we needed anything else.
Calica/Playa del Carmen—
We chose to go to Xcaret. I wanted to do activities that involved getting wet since I knew it would be hot. I loved, loved, loved Xcaret! We did the Carnival excursion because it included shuttle buses available every 20 minutes, and you could leave and re-enter the park anytime you wanted to.
We went through the underground caves/rivers which I thought was a little overrated since it was so crowded, but it did cool us off and was still pretty fun. We walked around the park and saw all sorts of wild animals, plant and fish cultivation areas, a butterfly enclosure . . . . I could never list all the things they have. It was awesome. I could see any type of person having fun here. We ate in one of the restaurants, La Cocina, which I thought was great. It was a little pricey but not bad, and I thought the food was delicious. We ended our day by lounging in the lagoon area which felt like a resort. It was very nice, and you could order food and drinks there too. They had lots of water activities available. I highly highly highly recommend this place. It was great.
We went to Paradise Beach. We were the first ones there, and it was beautiful. Once the waiters got there, our waiter Antonio came over. He was fantastic. All the waiters did a great job. The ocean was beautiful and I floated on one of the rafts for a long time, it was a beautiful day. It filled up quickly but it didn't bother us. There were lots of families, couples, a good mix. We didn't have anything to eat but I did have a Chi Chi and thought it was delicious. While at PB, it got a tiny bit windy. Then it died down, then all of a sudden there was a HUGE gust of wind that sent umbrellas flying high in the air, knocked over the booths where they have braiding and massages going on - it was really scary. Nobody was badly hurt, but some people got hit with umbrellas, and the girl doing the hair braiding was very shaken up. I was so impressed how the staff responded, reassuring people, cleaning up any debris, closing the umbrellas, etc. Everything was back to normal very quickly. Nothing like that happened the rest of the day, but it made me worry b/c we had wanted to go parasailing and I didn't know how safe it would be.
Well, we still went parasailing - the stand next to PB didn't take credit cards and we wanted to save our cash for downtown, but Antonio let us know there was another boat that would come that accepted them. We got in the boat and they took us to Playa Mia to pay, then brought us to the parasailing boat. What an incredible experience! I'd never been, and I would definitely go again. We hung out at Paradise Beach a bit more, and left to find some shopping. I think Paradise Beach is a great place to go. We just wanted a place to lay around, swim, read, get drinks, relax and we were so happy we went there. I wish we would have eaten there as the food looked great.
We went to downtown Cozumel and ate at Palmeras. We got chicken tacos and I didn't love them (though I stuffed myself on chips and guacamole, which was great!) but my boyfriend absolutely loved it. It wasn't very expensive there, and we sat in the front so we could look out on the street, which was fun. We skipped shopping because I had my time all mixed up and I thought it was an hour later than it actually was, and headed to Carlos and Charlie's b/c my boyfriend had heard so much about it and wanted to check it out. I'd been to the one in Cancun a few years ago, so I wasn't dying to go, but it was all right. We had a lot more fun at Senor Frog's upstairs. It was much cooler, they had lots of fans running, and there was live music. We drank too much tequila but had a blast, then made it onto the ship 2 hours before we needed to be there. (I was so confused - I had asked at the info desk on the ship if the time in Cozumel was different than the time on the ship and she said they were one hour behind us. But somehow that wasn't right, and I can't quite figure it out since my mind was cloudy from the drinks anyway! So maybe there's no time difference at all??)
The Activities -
We didn't take advantage of many! I wanted to read, get some sun, eat and relax! We bypassed the casino, though it looked like a ton of fun, just because we didn't want to lose the money unless we were dying to. We didn't watch the activities on the Lido Deck b/c we hung out at the smaller pool in the back, but I loved the fact that so many of the contests were videotaped and I watched them on TV while I was getting ready for dinner. If you are the type of person that likes to be busy from morning till night, you will find something to do! We enjoyed lounging at the pool, hanging out at the outside tables that you can access going out the doors on either side of the pizzeria, having drinks in the Polo Lounge and exploring the various decks.
We tried to go to the gym but I thought it was really hot and after about ten minutes, I'd had it! They offer a lot of classes that looked interesting though.
The bars were fun. We hung out at the Polo Lounge, above the Ecstasy dining room, and loved the bartenders there. A couple of nights we went to the Kaleidoscope disco. It looked cheesy to me on the outside, but it was so much fun. They started playing hip hop around 12:30 and we had a blast. There were lots of crew members there on the formal night. It was interesting to me that even when they're "off" they still have to identify themselves by wearing nametags.
The piano bar was really fun, although the dEcor is hideous. I think the people that work in there must have nightmares about all of those hands. It really is crazy-looking. There never were many people in the piano bar, it seems out of place being a floor below Sensation Boulevard (the strip of bars/casino.) But I liked Anton, the piano player and thought he was funny and really talented.
We tried one of the shows, but it's just not our thing. I think if you like Vegas-y kinda stuff, you'd probably really enjoy it. We missed the comedian, who we heard was great, and spoke to someone who really enjoyed the magician as well.
We played Bingo the last day, and that was pretty fun. We scoped out Karaoke, but my boyfriend absolutely hates country music and it seemed most of the songs were country, so we didn't stay long. But it would probably be fun if you liked that, or if you went with a big group of friends.
Ahh, the food! I loved it! Most mornings we ate at the buffet, got omelettes, sausage and toast. I thought it was great and preferred it to the open seating breakfast. The juices were pretty gross, though I could stomach the orange juice and I liked the ice tea because it was unsweetened. At lunch we tried the different buffets (I loved the Indian buffet!), had some of the delicious pizza, or had hot dogs from the Sea View grill which were great. Sometimes we tried room service, and I loved everything we tried from their menu. There was a salad bar on the Lido buffet that always looked amazing, and I always meant to get a salad but I'd eat all the other food first and not have any room!
Dinner was great! We sat at a table with two couples that were wonderful people to be put with. We were even placed with a fellow Cruise Critic member who I'd actually "spoken to" on the boards before! Small world! I felt very lucky that we liked our table, there were some tables around us where it looked like the people didn't interact. We had great conversations and a really nice time getting to know everybody. Our waiters were Mark and Avito, and they were the greatest. I felt like we were their only table, they took such good care of us. And they were very interesting to talk to as well.
I loved the meals we had at dinner, and there's so much talk of them on these boards I won't elaborate much. The lobster was fantastic, the tiramisu one night was perfect, and there was a shrimp dish (shrimp ehi? Or something like that - kind of like a tempura shrimp) that I think might have been my favorite. But, really, the food was ALWAYS good, and there were no problems ordering more than one thing.
Take lots of photos! You don't have to buy them, but it's fun to find them. We took some black and white portraits on the Formal Night and they came out beautifully. We bought one that we liked a lot, and yes it was pricey, but it's nice to have a good picture of us. Plus, you'd probably pay more at a professional studio.
I loved the people at the information desk. They had answers to all of my questions and supplied me with Band-Aids for my blisters through the whole trip J They also let us change our 20's into smaller change, which was convenient.
Bring bottled water! It was soooo expensive and we drank a lot of it. If you drink soda, bring some of that on. We snuck alcohol on with no problem. There's a liquor store near Cafe du Monde if you need to find one.
I'd heard about the smells on the Sensation, and didn't notice any. I was really amazed at how there are constantly people cleaning the ship. It was in great shape. Also, everyone stops and says hello, I was impressed with that too.
We might wait a while to take another cruise, as we like to do all sorts of different things, but we'll definitely be back. I'd even love to go back on the Sensation! Next time, though, I'll probably look for a longer cruise with more ports, since the port days were so much fun.
The only thing I'd change is some of the other passenger's attitudes. It doesn't hurt to say "please" and "thank you." The crew was so friendly and helpful and some of the rudeness I witnessed really made me mad!!
If you're going on this cruise, get ready to have a great time! Make sure to get to know lots of the staff because they were some of the most interesting people on the ship! I would recommend this cruise to anyone.